With less than four weeks to go until the presidential election, our campuses are full of activity including voter registration drives, lectures and panels. As most of today’s college students are voting for the very first time, it is vitally important that they understand the issues at stake and how they, as “Millennials,” can make an impact on the election.
In this issue of Connections, you will learn how John Carroll University and Santa Clara University are engaging Millennial voters, and read about a recent Georgetown University panel examining the impact of fear on politics and the Marquette Law School Poll, both of which have been in the news this Fall. You will also learn about the recent AJCU Federal Relations Conference, which was held at the U.S. Capitol on September 22nd. Government relations and financial aid administrators from Jesuit colleges and universities came to Washington, D.C. to hear from several members of Congress and Professional Staff from the House and Senate on topics including regulations and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Finally, our friends at the Ignatian Solidarity Network have produced a new publication inviting reflection and prayer on the many issues at stake during this election. The Ignatian Examen for Civic Life, now available for purchase online, is also featured in this issue of Connections.
In the weeks to come, we invite you to share your election-related events for publication in our weekly e-newsletter, AJCU Higher Ed News. Please send any stories to me by writing to email@example.com.
All the best,
Deanna I. Howes
By Cyndy Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
The nineteenth AJCU Federal Relations Conference was held at the U.S. Capitol on September 22nd. We had an excellent turnout of 34 government relations and financial aid administrators from Jesuit colleges and universities.
As AJCU always strives for bipartisanship, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, joined us during our morning session to relay the latest information on the Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid government shutdown, and funding for Pell grants and campus-based aid programs. On the Democratic side, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), a Jesuit alumnus of the College of the Holy Cross, discussed Pell Grants, as well as his perspective on Jesuit education. DeSaulnier, along with Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA), started the Friends of the Jesuit Colleges and Universities Caucus last year.
Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) was an important topic, as critical Professional Staff from the House and Senate authorizing committees briefed us on the latest developments. All of the panelists agreed that working on smaller HEA bills, as opposed to one big bill, was the best current strategy for reauthorization. Contentious programs, such as campus-based aid programs, would be considered at some other point. Staffers from Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) office (Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee) reiterated her continued support for Perkins Loans.
In the afternoon, tax counsels from the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee briefed our conference attendees on higher education tax issues. Neither panelist was able to guarantee that next year would be the definitive year for tax reform, and both expressed concern over college costs and endowments. Endowments remain an issue of concern for the House with regard to tying reserved funds to student aid. Government relations and financial aid administrators explained to the counsels why using the endowment reserve fund for student aid would be very difficult to do.
The day before the AJCU Federal Relations Conference, we joined the Committee for Education Funding (CEF), the largest education coalition in the U.S., for their annual Legislative Conference and Gala. The CEF Conference featured two panels, one focusing on the American public’s overall thoughts on education, and the other on the evolution and future of education policy. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT, Jesuit alum, Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor H&HS and Education) also spoke at the conference, and shared the latest news on the Continuing Resolution.
During the gala, CEF honored Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) for his many years of service on the House Education & Workforce Committee, as well as Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, for his efforts to support education funding. CEF also honored Tom Skelly, former director of the budget service at the U.S. Department of Education, and Joel Packer, who recently retired as executive director of CEF, and has spent 40 years of service as an education advocate.
By Michael Wieczorek, Executive Assistant to the President, AJCU
On September 13th, Georgetown University sought to examine some of the major forces at play during this election season in the panel discussion, “Faith, Anger, and Trust in Campaign 2016,” which was co-hosted by the Georgetown Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown University. The panel featured an impressive array of individuals, including Mark Shields, a well-known commentator on PBS NewsHour and Jerry Seib, the Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal.
John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, served as moderator for the event. In the historic Gaston Hall on Georgetown’s main campus, he began the discussion by saying, “In some ways, anger has been more powerful [throughout] this election than money.” He then asked Seib to consider the question, “In Clinton vs. Trump, who is angry, and why?”
Seib pointed to the diverging economic realities of varying segments of the population, and emphasized that many Americans believe the major institutions in this country are broken. He said, “People are angry not only at what is happening in Washington, but also at what is not happening in Washington.” In his observations, fear of the future and anger at the present have reached high levels this year; indeed, they are “the two most powerful emotions in politics.”
Another panelist, Melinda Henneberger, a visiting fellow at the Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, added that the political industry has been feeding the anger in the electorate for a long time- in part because, “there is no fundraising without outrage.”
Shields added that the failure to hold the barons of Wall Street legally accountable for the 2008 financial crisis is a key part of the anger in the electorate, as well as the United States’ wars in the Middle East. He asked, “Who bore the burden of those wars? It was the sons and daughters of blue collar workers and white blue collar workers themselves.”
The discussion then turned to the issue of trust in the 2016 campaign and dissatisfaction with the candidates. Seib noted the unusually high unfavorability ratings of both candidates this cycle. He explained that in previous elections, Wall Street Journal polls on presidential races always had options for voters to indicate support for either candidate or show they were “undecided.” But this year, for the first time, the poll featured “neither” as an additional option for voters who decided against supporting either candidate.
In discussing trust, Seib said, “The intelligent Trump voters feel guilty about their vote but are trying to justify it by saying, ‘I know he is not telling the truth, but I think he will get something done.’”
Finally, the conversation turned to the role of religion in this election, and its impact on voters’ decisions. Henneberger said, “I think voters tend to wrap a religious justification around a candidate they have picked for other reasons.”
Shields echoed the sentiment that religion is seldom a primary motivation for voters, and colorfully argued that evangelical support for Trump is nonsensical. In doing so, he highlighted the fact that these are the same voters who used to say that character was their biggest issue with President Bill Clinton.
The fourth panelist, Emma Green, a Georgetown graduate and Senior Associate Editor for The Atlantic, noted that last summer, the U.S. saw a reversal among the parties in regard to religion. She said that instead of appearing as a major theme at the Republican National Convention, it was regularly invoked at the Democratic National Convention.
The panel discussion concluded with questions from the audience that covered numerous topics, including the media’s role in the rise of Donald Trump and Pope Francis’ impact on Americans.
In addition to engaging students and the public through discussion forums on the election, Georgetown is also encouraging its students to vote by utilizing a subscription with TurboVote. The online application aids voters by tracking users’ upcoming elections, sending reminders via email and text, and simplifying voter registration and absentee voting.
Historically, young voters have very low turnout rates. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in the 2012 presidential election, only 38 percent of 18-24 year-olds voted, the lowest rate of any age group.
According to Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s Associate Vice President for Federal Relations, “Not only do colleges and universities have a legal obligation to bring voter registration information to the attention of our students, it is also consistent with our mission – here at Georgetown, shaping men and women for others – to encourage our students to participate in the governance of our nation by registering to vote.”
By Dr. Colin Swearingen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, John Carroll University
A few months ago, an NPR headline posited a question: “Millennials Now Rival Boomers As A Political Force, But Will They Actually Vote?” The author noted that Millennials comprise roughly the same percentage of the electorate as Baby Boomers but continue to be the least likely generation to vote. One of the experts quoted in the article noted that turnout among this generation will depend on how campaigns engage young voters.
At John Carroll University, we are doing just this – bringing the political action to our students, providing them a plethora of participatory options ranging from classes to campaign experiences to presidential debate “watch parties.” The goal of all of these activities is aligned with our Jesuit, Catholic mission of encouraging our students to be independent, critical thinkers who take action in accordance with their values.
Situated just miles from downtown Cleveland, Ohio, John Carroll is in the epicenter of electoral nirvana every four years. Presidential candidates, their vice presidential running mates, and campaign surrogates make it a habit to visit Northeast Ohio. But this year is different: Cleveland was on the world stage as the host city for the Republican National Convention (RNC). Our students, who are typically engaged in politics, wanted to be involved in this historical event.
After the death of legendary Meet the Press host, Tim Russert, a 1972 John Carroll alumnus, the University established a relationship with NBC News. Thanks to this partnership, 20 of our students worked for four weeks leading up to and during the Convention. In addition, 12 John Carroll students were fortunate to be hired by ABC News during the Convention, securing positions with Good Morning America, World News Tonight, Nightline and The View. Other students interned directly for the RNC, receiving floor access during some of the key moments of the Convention.
These paid internships opened doors for our students: not only did they obtain vital on-the-job experience that will bolster their resumes, they also had the chance to see how politics works behind the scenes. Afterwards, students shared stories about how the #NeverTrump movement was defeated on the first day of the Convention when the “conscience clause” was voted down in a controversial voice vote. They told of where they were when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave his speech advocating that conservatives “vote their conscience” in November, and how Donald Trump’s campaign floor generals orchestrated the subsequent booing. These are experiences I never had as an undergraduate, and I am proud that our students were on the front lines of a nominating convention.
These once-in-a-lifetime experiences were enhanced by the academic experience: students were able to enroll in a course centered on the 2016 RNC. Offered through our Department of Political Science and the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, students delved into the subject of how conventions operate, both in terms of media coverage and political machinations. For instance, they learned how to create messages for digital, broadcast, and print media. They discussed how campaigns use conventions to increase their support in polls and whether “convention bounces” are fleeting. They gained a greater understanding of how our presidential nomination process has become more democratic over time and the way in which rules can help determine who wins. During the Convention, instead of meeting in the classroom, they went downtown to experience it live. Some live tweeted from the middle of anti-Trump protests; others helped to coordinate some of the many concerts and parties that took place that week for delegates and other visitors. The synthesis of classroom instruction and political/media experience is something I know many of our students will never forget.
Taking advantage of the RNC is only the first step in getting the Millennial generation plugged into politics. With November 8th quickly approaching, John Carroll is providing more opportunities for students to make a mark on the 2016 election. Our “Streak the Vote” campaign is bringing speakers and panel discussions to campus, encouraging students to engage in and discuss the campaigns. We are conducting voter registration drives, hosting debate watch parties, and linking democracy to our Jesuit heritage through a brown bag lecture series. Rather than running from the tough discussions and controversies surrounding our major party presidential candidates, we are facilitating conversations and critical thinking about the tough issues facing the American electorate.
Finally, 25 students are enrolled in my “Campaigns and Elections” course this fall. At the beginning of each class, we dissect the biggest campaign news of the week and engage in respectful discourse about major campaign issues, such as race and police brutality, candidate temperament and trustworthiness, and how each candidate’s policies affect Millennials. To link these discussions to real-world campaigns, students are spending 25-30 hours working on one or multiple actual political campaigns. They are knocking on doors, making phone calls, analyzing data and fundraising for candidates at all levels. Just this past week, some of them were able to campaign in Cleveland with actors from notable television shows like Parks and Recreation and The West Wing.
Getting Millennials engaged in politics can be challenging, but John Carroll University is providing our students with incredible experiential learning opportunities to see, firsthand, how our democratic process works. We are able to do this through collaboration among many academic departments, as well as offices that have an interest in social justice, including Student Engagement, Government and Community Relations, and Campus Ministry. The amount of work done by our students is noteworthy; their thirst for knowledge is even greater. Even though our student body may not be representative of all Millennials, there is no doubt in my mind that our future is in good hands.
By Chris Jenkins, Associate Director of University Communication, Marquette University
Several colleges and universities around the country have recognized the value of conducting public opinion polls. The collective effort of these institutions helps advance our knowledge of how voters feel about the candidates and issues that dominate our headlines, newscasts and social media feeds.
Not every university poll, however, has asked voters to give an approval rating for the Pope.
In August 2015, the Marquette Law School Poll asked Wisconsin voters to give their opinion of Pope Francis. Among Catholic voters in Wisconsin, 70 percent had a favorable opinion while only 6 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
“Any secular leader would be delighted to do that well,” says Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and a professor of law and public policy at Marquette University.
Like other institutions of higher education that conduct polling, Marquette saw an opportunity to serve the public by providing an accurate snapshot of voters’ opinions on any number of issues – and, in the process, bring positive attention to their respective universities by capturing a sliver of the bright spotlight that constantly shines on our political process.
As part of its mission, Marquette University Law School seeks to serve as a modern-day public square, a place where important issues can be debated seriously and with civility. Marquette’s broader mission as a Catholic and Jesuit university compels the Marquette Law School Poll and Franklin to go beyond questions of which candidate is ahead and why.
“When we look at proposals that come up in society about how to address poverty, or access to education, or access to health care, all of those things fit well with the Jesuit value of caring for others,” says Franklin. “And in that, I think we are providing, in a very small but not quite trivial way, greater understanding of how to translate public attitudes toward those issues into potential policies.”
Through the poll, Franklin has examined public attitudes on social issues including economic inequality, education, water quality, immigration, policing, incarceration, employment and the economy. (All results are available at law.marquette.edu/poll.)
Exploring such issue-related questions was a central part of the initial planning process for the poll, which began in 2012 when Franklin, then a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, agreed to serve as a visiting professor at Marquette and oversee the new polling project.
“In 2012, our original thought was that we would spend the spring and summer looking at a variety of social circumstances in the state – What is life like in different parts of the state? What are the concerns? A wide range of subjects,” says Franklin.
Then came controversy surrounding Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, which ultimately led to an effort to recall him.
According to Franklin, “We were quickly hurled into political polling right from the get-go.”
The poll correctly predicted that Walker would survive the recall attempt, the first steps toward building a reputation as the “gold standard” in Wisconsin polling. Since 2012, it has accurately predicted the outcome of how Wisconsin would vote in every major national and statewide political race, from the high-profile gubernatorial recall in 2012 to presidential primaries in 2016.
Franklin, who joined the Marquette faculty full-time in 2013, isn’t one to brag. But he does point to the accuracy of the Marquette Law School Poll and others around the country as evidence that, as he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2016, “The polls are not broken. Say it again: The polls are not broken.”
“I do think there’s a certain value in recognizing that polls are not broken,” says Franklin. “In 2012 in particular, we heard a lot of doubt cast on whether the polling was accurate. But at the end of that year, it proved that they were very accurate. Polls alone would have gotten 49 out of the 50 states, missing only Florida by a tenth of a percentage point. So that was a pretty good track record in 2012. In our data, but also [for] all pollsters, we collect our data and sample in ways that are well established by statistical theory, by actual theorems that explain why they should work. But [what’s] good in theory is not necessarily good in practice. Political polling is one of the few areas where you get an objective measure of ‘were we right or not?’ By Wednesday morning of most election years, you know who the winner was.”
Franklin’s journey to becoming a pollster began in the 10th grade, when he was charged with doing a science project in school and decided that he didn’t want to make a volcano with baking soda. Instead, he designed a survey, measuring the attitudes of grade-school students on their favorite Saturday morning cartoon shows. The questions may be more significant today, but the enthusiasm remains.
“I’m an old-fashioned pollster in the sense that I still believe that giving voice to the public at large is an important ‘small-d’ democratic value,” says Franklin. “Allowing only elites, self-interested parties and interest groups to have access to the information about what the public is thinking about things is bad for the broader public understanding. For all of the imperfections of polling in general, I think we’re much better with it than without it, and in the changing media environment, it’s a function that universities and especially private universities, are especially well-suited to do as part of our broader mission to serve the public.”
By Deborah Lohse, Office of Marketing & Communications, Santa Clara University
If there are any Bronco students who don’t get out to vote on November 8th, it won’t be for lack of trying.
This year, Santa Clara University (SCU) students won’t have to step foot off campus for opportunities to attend more than a half-dozen lectures on key issues, find gathering spots to discuss the parties, candidates and platforms, watch and discuss debates, and even cast their vote on Election Day.
“Everyone agrees this is a pretty strange, exciting and interesting campaign year,” says Sophia Neuhaus, SCU’s social sciences & government information librarian who is helping to coordinate some of the many election activities on campus. “We want to make the most of that interest to provide opportunities for students to engage on issues, learn about candidates and vote.”
Many college-aged students are eligible to vote for the first time this year, and are thus making an admirable effort to become educated beyond the soundbite frenzy of Campaign 2016. Neil Datar, Senate Chair of SCU’s Associated Student Government (ASG) says, “The polarizing, often harsh statements or sometimes bending of the truth is surprising to students, who don’t like it. We are educated to take the facts and evaluate them on their own merit, but campaigns on both sides of the aisle are sometimes just creating strong positions without the requisite facts and logic to back it up.”
Santa Clara has a packed program to help students overcome the messaging mayhem and become educated voters. This fall, a series of events will help students take a deep dive into the issues at stake in this election year.
Bannan Institute: A four-part lecture series offered for four weeks in October by the Bannan Institute of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education will examine how “the common good” is being affected in this election, in terms of race, environment, economics and gender.
“The notion of the common good is an important concept in Catholic social teaching,” says William Sundstrom, a Santa Clara professor of economics, who will be giving one of the the Bannan Institute lectures this month. From Sundstrom’s perspective, students should be asking, “To what extent are we all in it together? Who is ‘all of us?’”
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: On October 18th, Santa Clara’s Markkula Center will host former Congressman Tom Campbell to discuss gridlock, political polarization and the influence of money on campaigns. The following week, on October 27th, the Center will host a panel discussion on the topic of “moral reasoning” in this fractured election. Speakers will include Markkula Center government ethics director Hana Callaghan; SCU management professor Robert Finocchio; and SCU philosophy professors Scott LaBarge and Erick Ramirez.
According to David DeCosse, director of campus ethics programs at the Markkula Center, decades of scholarly and civic study on how society should judge right and wrong – moral reasoning – seem to be getting tossed out in favor of what gets the most “likes” on Facebook, or narratives that consumers find entertaining – truthful or not.
“’Clicks’ and ‘likes’ shouldn’t determine what is morally important, what questions we expect our candidates to answer, or what level of truth we accept from them,” says DeCosse. “Basic fundamental standards and traditions and ways of thinking should be integral to the inquiry and accountability to which we hold our candidates.”
Together with ASG, Santa Clara’s political science department will host watch parties for each of the four presidential debates, featuring facilitated discussions led by panels of faculty and student leaders. ASG, as part of its participation in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, also plans to host a debate on October 17th featuring the candidates for Santa Clara City Council.
This year, for the first time in nearly two decades, Santa Clara will have its own University-based polling place – exclusively for SCU students. And for the first time ever, there will be an on-campus absentee ballot drop-off location.
“We are really excited that students will be able to say, ‘Let’s go have dinner or lunch, and oh, by the way, let’s go vote first,’” says Matt Cameron, Santa Clara’s assistant vice provost for student life who, in close partnership with ASG, worked with Santa Clara County to bring both amenities to campus.
Exhibits and More
Throughout the fall semester, the Santa Clara University Library and Benson Memorial Student Center will feature election-oriented gathering spots to remind students of their civic duty to vote. The University also has two dedicated websites for students to learn more about the issues at stake in this election: Election 2016 and Voter Registration.
“Hopefully the combination of all these events won’t be just a short-term increase in student involvement,” says Datar. “Hopefully this gets ingrained as something repeatable: A long-term increase in the amount of awareness and discussion we see on campus.”
By Christopher G. Kerr, Executive Director, Ignatian Solidarity Network
“We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.” — Pope Francis
The United States is in the midst of one of the most tumultuous and vile presidential election battles in modern time. Throughout the primary and general election, we have seen candidates find new and disturbing ways to defy the values of decency presumed to be innate in public service. Candidates have called each other names, questioned the size of each other’s genitals, blatantly lied about the actions or words of another candidate during a public debate, suggested that violence might be justified if election results don’t support their cause, fueled conspiracy theories, thrown insults at fellow citizens who support their opponent, and used racism as a tool to gain support. All in all, it has been more than just a sad showing — it can leave us without much hope for the future of our country.
What is most disturbing to me, especially as Election Day nears, is the lack of emphasis on key issues facing the people of our country and the world, particularly issues facing those marginalized by poverty and injustice. Where is the common good? One does not have to look far to see these realities playing out in the lives of our neighbors near and far.
How can the Jesuit and Catholic heritage of our institutions help us make sense of the madness that Election 2016 has become? It would be easy to simply say, “I am out,” and steer clear of the voting booth this November. But as Pope Francis notes, this is not the call of our faith, regardless of how challenging it might be. We are called to immerse ourselves, to lift up the Gospel values that ground our campus communities and intersect with current civic realities. We are called to be people of hope and sometimes that means we need to step back and reflect on where that hope exists.
Earlier this fall, the Ignatian Solidarity Network rolled out the Ignatian Examen for Civic Life, a nonpartisan prayer and reflection tool. Like many elements of our Jesuit heritage, the process of engaging in the election should start with reflection. Are we willing to engage in conversation with ourselves, with others, and even with God about the needs of our country — particularly the needs of the most vulnerable who are impacted by our country’s policies and actions? What can we be grateful for as a nation? How is the “common good” a part of our nation’s ethos? Where is there a need for reconciliation and healing? How are we giving a preferential option to those marginalized by poverty and injustice? These are a few of the questions that the Ignatian Examen for Civic Life asks us to consider.
Certainly (hopefully) we will vote, giving attention to the intersection of Gospel values and current civic realities. However, thinking beyond November, our reflection has to lead us to more than just a stop at the ballot box. Regardless of who is elected president, we need to be prepared to hold them accountable, not just for the commitments they will make, but the commitments that respond to the “common good,” that protect the vulnerable in our own borders, and promote a spirit of global citizenship. We have a lot of work to do.