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Civic engagement in action: Loyola students and faculty member address President Joe Biden at CNN town hall

| By Molly Robey

Several members of the Loyola community participated in a CNN town hall with President Joe Biden on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at Baltimore Center Stage. During the invitation-only event, President Joe Biden and journalist and political commentator Anderson Cooper took questions from the crowd and discussed the president’s infrastructure plans.

President Joe Biden and Anderson Cooper at the CNN Townhall in BaltimoreStudents, faculty, staff, and administrators were invited to submit questions for a chance to attend and ask their question. During the event, two Loyola students, Anna Hirsch, ’23, and Glenn Niblo, ’21, and one Loyola faculty member, Sondra Guttman, Ph.D., lecturer of English, asked questions and addressed President Joe Biden. Many other faculty members and students were also invited to attend the town hall in person.

Hirsch, a political science major and English minor, asked the president how his administration plans to deal with the supply chain crisis—especially for small businesses.

“It was a surreal experience to be able to attend the CNN town hall with President Biden,” said Hirsch, who is also an Honors student at Loyola. “I am so glad that I had the opportunity to attend. It was so great to see other Loyola students and faculty members at the event, too.”

Niblo, an economics major and member of the rugby team, asked the President about the recent advancement China’s military has made and his position on Taiwan’s independence.

Guttman, who has taught at Loyola for 13 years, hoped the president would address why a proposal for two free years of community college might be cut from his Build Back Better economic plan.

“It was an extraordinary experience to speak directly to President Biden and have him look me in the eye and reply. At that moment, I felt like part of our democracy in action,” Guttman said. “I felt he answered my question and was impressed by how upfront he was about acknowledging that the cut has been made. While I was disappointed with that, I was thrilled to hear him promise at the end of the answer that he will be working for free community college in the next three years of his term. These town halls are important because they offer a chance to hold politicians accountable.”

Left to right: Center Stage in Baltimore during the CNN Townhall in 2021 and Loyola College in the early 1900sTies to Loyola’s past

The venue for the CNN town hall, Baltimore Center Stage, was once Loyola College and high school from 1855-1921. In 1921, Loyola College moved to the Evergreen campus on North Charles Street; Center Stage made its theatre debut in December 1975.

Committed to civic engagement

Loyola has garnered national recognition for its dedication to civic engagement. A report from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), creators of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE found that student voting at Loyola has increased significantly in last year’s presidential election, rising to 79.7% in 2020 from a rate of 47.2% in 2016. Additionally, Loyola received the Platinum Seal for the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for nonpartisan student voter participation efforts in the 2020 Election.

The University received the Silver Seal Award at the national ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge Awards Ceremony for excellence in student voter engagement between 2014 to 2018. The online platform TurboVote ranked Loyola No. 6 for the percentage of undergraduate students who signed up for TurboVote and No. 8 for the total amount of voter registration sign-ups between Aug. 1-Sept. 2, 2020, ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Loyola also made Washington Monthly’s 2021 list of “Best Colleges for Student Voting,” recognizing “the schools doing the most to turn students into citizens.” Washington Monthly assembled the list based on school participation in voting engagement programs and voter registration rates.

Visit LoyolaVotes, overseen by a non-partisan campus taskforce to find resources on voter registration and absentee ballots, and election information for students, faculty, staff, administrators, and other members of the University community.

Photo of President Joe Biden and Anderson Cooper and recent photo of Center Stage in Baltimore taken by John Whelan, '23. Photo of Loyola College taken in the early 1900s provided by Loyola/Notre Dame Library.

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