Greyhounds join forces to help Loyola students "Rock the Vote"
It wasn’t easy for Loyola's Student Government Association (SGA) to track down voter registration information and absentee ballots for every state. But the students involved knew that if they did the tedious work, more Loyola students would register, vote, and have a voice in the 2012 presidential election.
"No student had to find an envelope and buy the postage. All the students had to do was show up," said Danielle Melfi, '13, SGA president. "At first it was just a lot of work, but once time went by, you’d see students put their absentee ballots in the mail. It's been a really empowering thing to be involved in."
As the campus—and the nation—prepared for the election, Loyola's Green and Grey Society established Loyola Votes, a cross-campus collaborative initiative raising awareness about the issues surrounding the election, and promoting civil discourse about the issues and the candidates.
The Green and Grey Society partnered with SGA, faculty, student development, Athletics, the Center for Community Service and Justice to create a Loyola Votes website for the campus, as well as a number of events. Students could attend viewings of the presidential debates, reflect on an election examen online, and attend “Jock the Vote” and “Privilege and Civility” events.
Geoff Norbert, director of the office for student engagement, said the focus of the effort was promoting civil dialogue on campus with the motto "Be civil. Be informed. Be inclusive."
"There were a lot of issues with that in the last election. We were trying to give students ways to disagree in a respectful way," he said. "One of the things that I heard students say was they were really curious about finding actual facts about candidates."
During the first week of classes, about 200 students registered to vote at a Rock the Vote rally. By the time the election arrived, Melfi estimated 1,000 students had registered.
"We wanted to make it as simple as possible," said Melfi, a resident of Hawthorne, N.J., who voted by absentee ballot. "The vibe we were getting was a lot of students wanted to vote, but it was so much effort for students to do it themselves."
T.J. Kelly, '13, director of diversity for the SGA, helped students from a number of states register and get absentee ballots. He remembers giving forms to students from Kentucky, Ohio, California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, and Tennessee, among other states.
"There was the really engaged person who came with their form already because they saw on the email that we were registering people, and there were other people who were just passing," said Kelly, who lives in Massapequa Park, N.Y., and voted by absentee ballot. "It was extremes, either people who were completely prepared, or 'I don’t have an excuse not to do this.'"
As the election drew closer, many students watched the debates closely. Both Kelly and Melfi said they heard from many students who were still trying to decide how to vote.
"I know that I went into the debates with one clear-cut idea of who I was voting for, and then questioned myself a lot because of the debates. The debates were really important, and they were a spark to understand more about the issues that I didn’t really understand," Kelly said. "I think people’s opinions changed in the last month."
Regardless of the outcome, Kelly and Melfi said the SGA members were proud of their involvement in the process.
"We certainly made an impact on the election," Kelly said.