By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU

It’s election season and with only two weeks left until the 2018 mid-term elections, our campuses are buzzing with activity. In this month’s issue of Connections, you will learn about the many ways that Jesuit colleges and universities have encouraged their students to register to vote.

You will also learn about a brand-new course at the College of the Holy Cross that is bringing civics and civility back into the classroom. Two alumni, a former Democratic Congressman and a Republican campaign strategist, are giving back to their alma mater by team-teaching a class on elections and campaign management. In the process, they are demonstrating civility and respect, and inspiring students to model such behavior inside and outside of the classroom.

And speaking of students who are modeling civil and civic behavior, we’re pleased to share news about the Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA). The JSGA is the newest member of the AJCU Network and is currently co-chaired by the student government presidents of Creighton University and Saint Louis University. Click here to learn more about their plans to share best practices and work with each other in pursuit of common goals on Jesuit campuses.

We hope that the election season has been an exciting one on your campuses, presenting your communities with opportunities to engage in constructive dialogue and teach students how their civic responsibility to vote can truly make a difference.

By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU

Tim Bishop (left) and Peter Flaherty lecture together during a recent class at the College of the Holy Cross (photo courtesy of John Hill, College of the Holy Cross)

Tim Bishop (left) and Peter Flaherty lecture together during a recent class at the College of the Holy Cross (photo courtesy of John Hill, College of the Holy Cross)

A former Democratic member of Congress and a Republican campaign strategist walk into a classroom at a Jesuit liberal-arts institution. This may sound like the set up to a joke, but the reality is not a laughing matter.

These individuals are Tim Bishop and Peter Flaherty: two alumni of the College of the Holy Cross, who returned to their alma mater this fall to co-teach an undergraduate course on the mid-term elections and campaign management.

Bishop is a 1972 graduate who served as the representative of New York’s first Congressional district for twelve years, after a distinguished career in higher education, including the position of provost at Southampton College. Flaherty is a 1987 graduate who served as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts before taking on the role of top strategist for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012. Both Bishop and Flaherty bring decades of experience, from both sides of the aisle, to their roles as co-teachers in Worcester, MA every Tuesday afternoon.

The class came about after Bishop spent a day guest lecturing at Holy Cross in spring 2018. He stayed in touch with several faculty and administrators and worked with them over the next few months to create an upper-level political science class, with an internship component, that would be offered in the fall. Flaherty had also spent time guest lecturing at Holy Cross and learned about the opportunity to team-teach with Bishop from Daniel Klinghard, Ph.D., a professor of political science and director of the College’s J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World.

Bishop said, “Ultimately, over the course of multiple conversations, we developed the idea for a hands-on class that would focus on the mid-term elections, but would also require the students in the class to do a campaign-related internship. We also recognized that this was going to be something that, given our desire for this to be scrupulously non-partisan, would be best to team-teach.”

All but two of the class sessions are taught by Bishop and Flaherty together (one week was taught by just Bishop and one week was taught by just Flaherty). Flaherty said, “It works great because I think we both bring similar types of backgrounds and experiences. We come at it from different political parties so we may bring different philosophical perspectives and we may see things through a different ideological lens, which I think is healthy for the students when it comes to approaching a particular policy subject or any kind of political debate.”

The course is designed to be intentionally non-partisan, and both Bishop and Flaherty have been pleased by the thoughtful discussion inside of their classroom. For Carter Mitchell, a senior Political Science major, this has been one of the most gratifying aspects of the class. She said, “I was initially drawn to take this course based on the unique perspectives that both professors would bring to the class. Representing both sides of the political aisle, the two balance each other out while enabling lively discussion among students who are participating in various campaigns.”

Students secured their internships on campaigns or with political-affiliated organizations over the summer, with assistance from Klinghard and Maryanne Finn, coordinator of semester programs and academic internships at the J.D. Power Center. In addition to the internship, the course requires students to pay close attention to the news cycle. Flaherty said, “We assigned ten Senate races to teams of two students, who have to report on them every week: what’s going on with the race; what would they do if they were one candidate over another; what would be their strategy to win and how might that strategy change from week to week.”

Students were deliberately assigned races that are seen as the most important or “toss ups” in this election cycle, and have learned how current events may affect their races. On November 13, one week after the election, Bishop and Flaherty will open the class to the public for a “post-mortem” with leading Democrat and Republican pollsters serving as guest lecturers to offer their take on the results (the October 30 class will also be open to the public, and will focus on potential outcomes). The final few weeks of the class will focus on possible implications of the election on policy, and consider the impact of a new or unchanged majority in both the House and the Senate.

At a time when civic (and civil) discourse is fraught with tension, a Jesuit classroom may be just the right venue to bring students from opposing political viewpoints together. This past summer, the newly-launched International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) convened working groups to address six critical issues facing society today. One of the groups issued a position paper on civic and political leadership, which states:

“The growth of nationalism, populism, racism and authoritarianism in many parts of the world threatens efforts to bring humanity together to face the common challenges of the 21st century. The education of rising generations with a global solidarity mindset has never been more important. And the Society of Jesus, with its more than 450-year-old global horizon and tradition of education for the common good, is positioned to make a distinctive contribution.”

As a member of the IAJU, Holy Cross is committed to fostering civic and political leadership. Offering a class that takes a non-partisan approach to elections and campaign management is one way that the College demonstrates that commitment, and prepares students to become future leaders rooted in ethics and civility. Mitchell, the senior political science major, said, “The Jesuit mission entails engaging with people of all cultures, values and faiths, and I believe civil conversations with peers and professors within the classroom and beyond, has enabled me to understand various viewpoints. It is crucial in our course to respect the political views of our peers and professors, and engage in thoughtful discussions. This course has helped foster Jesuit values to be men and women for others, while remaining open-minded citizens.”

For Bishop and Flaherty, the benefits of this course go beyond teaching students how to manage a campaign. Bishop said, “I hope our students recognize that Peter and I come to our positions on lots of issues from entirely different places and that we are able to present our positions and explore our differences in a fashion that is highly civil and collegial.” As alumni of Holy Cross, Bishop and Flaherty have been motivated by their Jesuit education to lead lives in service of others, and to help inspire future generations of leaders.

By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU

The Potential Impact of the Mid-Term Election on Higher Education


The races leading up to the November 6 mid-term elections continue to be volatile for many who are running for the House and Senate. On the Senate side, Democrats would need to keep 26 seats and pick up one or two more in order to take control; a change in leadership thus seems unlikely. In the House of Representatives, Democrats would need to pick up 23 seats to take control. A number of issues are at stake, including many that could impact higher education policy.

Immigration is a critical issue for the country. When President Obama initiated the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program in 2012, he created an important protection for students who are attending college, have graduated, or might be working in the armed forces but are still undocumented. President Trump’s proposal to eliminate DACA last year heightened concerns for students and families alike. Should a DACA student get arrested for even a traffic offense, he/she will be deported back to his/her country of origin.

The Dream Act (which would help protect undocumented individuals) may be considered again, should Democrats take control of the House. But no matter which party wins control next month, there is still the threat of a veto unless the legislation includes a $25 billion request by the President for a wall between Mexico and the United States.

As for federal student aid funding, what would happen should the Republicans retain control of one or both chambers? The FY19 Labor, H&HS and Education appropriations bill did realize a $100 increase on Pell grants and level-funded the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS) programs, while also giving an increase to TRIO. This was done through a successful bipartisan effort in both chambers.

There is more of a defined difference between the two parties in the House of Representatives where the PROSPER Act, introduced by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has been pushed by the Republican majority. Approved by a party-line vote in 2017, no efforts were made to work on PROSPER in a bipartisan manner. As a result, there are $15 billion in cuts and eliminations proposed to critical student aid programs.

The Aim Higher Act, introduced by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is the opposite of the PROSPER Act in that it preserves critical student aid programs, including campus-based aid initiatives.

It is good news that Republican members are focusing on eliminating regulations that are burdensome for colleges and universities through the PROSPER Act. Next year, could be a particularly busy one for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) because the Senate has yet to introduce their bipartisan bill.

If one chamber is controlled by one party, and the second chamber is controlled by another party, do those differences of control encourage working together, or does nothing get accomplished because there is a new element of gridlock? Does the President finally work with the other party to achieve resolution of key issues, such as immigration? Critical matters are at stake and will need awareness of the Common Good by both parties if we are to resolve them. Then there are the powerful questions of the moment that affect this election. For example, will the #MeToo movement or reaction over Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation spark more women to vote in this election?

We hope for a bipartisan approach regardless of which party is in control and we hope that support for federal student aid programs will continue from both parties on Capitol Hill. Millions of students are dependent upon these results.

By Sean Comer, Government Relations Director, Xavier University

Above (L-R): Shelby Lauter, Taylor Liggins, Martin O’Malley, Gil Guthrie, Meagan Gosney & Rachel Gosney Take on Iowa in January 2016 (photo courtesy of SHelby Lauter)

Above (L-R): Shelby Lauter, Taylor Liggins, Martin O’Malley, Gil Guthrie, Meagan Gosney & Rachel Gosney Take on Iowa in January 2016 (photo courtesy of SHelby Lauter)

Every year, many students enrolled in the Philosophy, Politics, and the Public (PPP) Honors Program at Xavier University engage in political campaigns throughout the Greater Cincinnati, OH region as part of their coursework.

PPP is an innovative and rigorous undergraduate program that focuses on the unifying concept of ‘the public sphere’ in democratic societies. Past and current students differ greatly in their political ideologies and alumni have served in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations. While amenable to liberals and conservatives alike, the highly selective program challenges students to analyze, critique and defend their views.

As sophomores, PPP students are required to take a class called “Mass Media and Politics,” designed to directly engage them in the political and public policy processes. They work not on the fringes, but in the thick of races, connecting directly to candidates, issues, voters and the public, who ultimately decide the outcome and are at the forefront of the political process.

Students are intentionally placed on local campaigns, giving them the opportunity to work hand-in-hand, on the ground with field directors, campaign managers and the candidates themselves. Unlike high profile, professionally-run national races (e.g. presidential, Senate or House campaigns), local races are often left to small, passionate teams. In Cincinnati, Xavier students become part of those teams. These local campaign operations give students much more than an afternoon of canvassing or an hour spent working at a phone bank. They are depended upon by the candidate for important responsibilities that they can later leverage as powerful and impressive skills on their resumes.

ABOVE: PPP Alumni Heyra Avila & Shelby Lauter with Sean Comer (photo courtesy of Shelby Lauter)

ABOVE: PPP Alumni Heyra Avila & Shelby Lauter with Sean Comer (photo courtesy of Shelby Lauter)

PPP students split their time between their internship work in the field and studying campaign strategy in the classroom. They learn how to present election data, research fundraising prospects, design media messaging, and structure efforts to “Get Out the Vote.” The strategies they learn in the classroom are then applied to the candidate or issue that they are working on in the field. The course aims to combine experience and theory so that students can put each to the test.

Outside of the classroom, students learn how to identify which doors to knock on to help their candidates win in their districts. They attend fundraising events with donors from their regions, while also developing an understanding of how to identify future donors and build a fundraising campaign. They distribute campaign literature while thinking about the best ways to organize and deliver messages to voters via platforms that include everything from yard signs and flyers to the creation of social media accounts.

When the dust settles and Election Day arrives, the students move from the street and the classroom to the TV studio. For many years, Xavier’s PPP students have provided live election coverage from the Hamilton County Board of Elections in a program called “Beyond the Yard Signs,” on Cincinnati’s local government access channel. Students report results and provide in depth analysis of the candidates and races they’ve worked on throughout the semester. No one in the city knows these races better than the PPP students. They are quizzed by hosts live on the air and are expected to provide insight derived from their firsthand experience in the community coupled with their understanding of current and past elections.

The goal of the course isn’t to graduate campaign operatives, but to graduate effective and reflective citizens. While the PPP sophomores are expected to work hard with a goal of getting their candidate elected or issue passed, they’re also taught the importance of the citizen in the electoral process. They are challenged to think about the needs of the voters, identify barriers to voting, and understand the importance and privilege of this civic duty.

“Although I’ve always been interested in national politics, I was not politically active in high school, and I really didn’t know how I could participate other than voting. The PPP program at Xavier not only provided an avenue for me to further explore my political interests academically, but it also taught me how to channel these interests into active participation. Through Sean Comer’s “Mass Media and Politics” course, I gained practical knowledge and experience by studying and working on local campaigns and policy issues. His course, along with Dr. John Fairfield’s class on the history of civic philosophy, provided me with a deeper understanding of my role as a citizen in the “public sphere” and led me to develop a publicly-oriented mindset. This mentality stuck with me as I pursued internships in college, and later, as I sought my first post-graduate job. My experiences in PPP drew me to AJCU and to Washington, DC, where I felt I could continue my political engagement and service to others. Since moving to DC, I’ve carried the PPP spirit with me by volunteering as a canvasser and phone-banker for Congressional races. Above all, this program instilled me with a drive to remain involved, wherever my career may take me, and to strive to be an effective and reflective citizen.”

— By Shelby Lauter, Xavier University (’18)
Executive Assistant to the President, AJCU

As part of the “Mass Media and Politics” semester, students simultaneously take a history course focused on the construction of “the public” and the history of civic philosophies in the United States. “Campaign politics” demonstrates the construction of our political system today and how to pull the levers to make a difference, while “Constructing the Public” demonstrates change over time and how, throughout our history, individuals chose to pull those levers and shift entire systems. Things don’t just happen: people make decisions and act. Throughout the course, students are asked to consider alternative viewpoints, to challenge their own views, and seek to understand ‘the other,’ whether that means politics, gender, race or economic status.

After the sophomore year experience, many PPP students move into paid campaign roles before finishing their four years of undergraduate work at Xavier. PPP now has ten years of graduates, many of whom are working or have worked in a wide range of political offices, from Cincinnati City Council, to the Ohio Statehouse, and to the White House in Washington, D.C.

For graduates who decide that political campaign work is not for them, the experience gained in the class deepens their understanding of how our electoral and, in turn, governmental system, works. Many PPP alumni are now working at the corporate or community level, grounded in understanding the importance of and responsibility to this civic role that is vital to the future of our society.

Moving beyond the confines of campus, talking to people outside of their comfort zone, and seeking to understand different points of view allow Xavier PPP students to expand their education beyond the classroom. They become better educated citizens and their knowledge benefits the global community they join as graduates, whether they stay in Cincinnati, head back home, gravitate to our nation’s capital, or seek new experiences abroad. Xavier’s PPP honors program prepares them for a life as men and women for and with others.

By Angeline Vuong, Assistant Director for Public Service Programs, Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service & the Common Good, University of San Francisco

Volunteers help students at the University of San Francisco register to vote (photo courtesy of the University of San Francisco)

Volunteers help students at the University of San Francisco register to vote (photo courtesy of the University of San Francisco)

In May 1964, the Civil Rights Act was under attack by segregationists in the U.S. Congress. Three young men, Andrew Goodman and his two friends, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, went to Meridian, Mississippi, for Freedom Summer* to register African Americans to vote. They were killed by the Ku Klux Klan and their story galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Today, in 2018, we find ourselves in a modern-day civil rights struggle, as the voices of students, women and communities of color continue to be disenfranchised at the ballot box. Across the country, there is a resurgence of white supremacy, anti-immigrant sentiment, the gutting of key civil rights protections and massive voter suppression tactics.

Barriers to voting prohibit our most vulnerable voices from being heard, valued and included. We know from research that both young people and people of color have been historically disenfranchised during the election process. Obstacles still exist for young people who find that the registration process to vote is confusing and intimidating. Students express that they do not vote because they think their vote does not matter; they don’t like the candidates; or they believe that the process is stacked against people with views like their own.

University of San Francisco students share their reasons to vote (photo by USF)

University of San Francisco students share their reasons to vote (photo by USF)

Equal access to voting matters still to this day. That’s why USF Votes, a voter engagement initiative led by the University of San Francisco’s (USF) Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, is more important than ever. As campus partners with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, we honor Goodman’s legacy by defending participatory democracy, inclusive of everyone, where the fundamental right to vote is diligently preserved.

Now in its second year, the USF Votes initiative trains, educates, and empowers students to overcome those barriers to the voting process. Institutionalizing voter engagement as part of the USF culture is key—this ensures that voting is an integral part of the student experience by cultivating life-long civic participants. Although the nation is growing increasingly diverse, voting participation rates skew older, white and wealthier. As the third most ethnically diverse campus in the United States, we have students who represent an array of experiences and backgrounds, who are actively engaged in the world—and changing it. Their voices need to be counted.

A post-Millennial wave of newly eligible voters seek to change the national conversation on issues of great importance to them, e.g. college access and affordability, climate change, homelessness and housing. Across the country, primary elections are showing that people care about their representatives—from local school boards to the Senate—who reflect their values, interests, hopes and dreams. This public visibility, and lobbying activity by young people, highlights the important role that young voters could play this November and beyond. As the largest voting bloc in U.S. history, young people are an increasingly important part of the electorate.

students registering to vote at the University of San Francisco (photo by USF)

students registering to vote at the University of San Francisco (photo by USF)

From the first moment that students step foot on campus at orientation, they know that the spirit of civic engagement is part of the USF experience. We partner with Student Life, Residential Halls, the Office of the Registrar, Athletics, Greek Life and other campus departments and divisions to ensure that every eligible student is registered to vote and prepared to make an informed decision on Election Day.

This year, the USF Votes campus team is working to help peers understand that registering to vote is a simple process. Through messaging and communications, they are highlighting the urgency of this election; helping voters identify the types of representatives who reflect what they value and care about is something key to our strategy. In addition, our USF Votes team collaborates with student organizations and other leaders to build a cadre of ambassadors who can register their peers and build the momentum leading up to November 6 and after. By familiarizing ourselves with mail-in ballot regulations for every state (along with absentee deadlines), our USF Votes team is ready to assist students who might find the process challenging and complex.

There’s no off season for USF Votes. Every day is a chance for us to maximize voter participation and civic engagement at our university. Building a voting culture is key in this election for us, especially when we have a wealth of diverse students from various backgrounds. Our mission and passion for social justice requires all of our voices to be heard, especially at the polls. USF Votes serves to mitigate inequalities and get students from different economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to be heard at the polls and participate fully in the political process. Our initiative through the Leo T. McCarthy Center at USF is at the forefront of student voter engagement efforts. When we all vote, we can change the world from here. 2018 is a big year for our country. Let’s make sure all of our voices are heard.

*Freedom Summer was a volunteer campaign in June 1964 to register African American voters in Mississippi. Click here to learn more.

By Wendi Hansen, Writer & Social Media Manager, Regis University

Regis University Freshman Yael Greene stood before a crowd of nearly 400 students, faculty and staff to honor the victims of the Parkland, FL shooting in 2018 (photo courtesy of Regis University)

Regis University Freshman Yael Greene stood before a crowd of nearly 400 students, faculty and staff to honor the victims of the Parkland, FL shooting in 2018 (photo courtesy of Regis University)

Regis University has a long tradition of positioning its students to think critically about the world and their role in it. Students are taught to focus on the social problems that our communities and the world are facing, and to take action and address the issues head on. Guided by their core values, including contemplation in action and teaching people to be men and women for others, the Jesuits are known for not being afraid to question and challenge the status quo.

While many shy away from the hard topics, Regis students are opening a dialogue, creating discourse and starting conversations on campus and in communities to which they belong.

Enough is Enough

After the unspeakable tragedy in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, many students across the country, including those at Regis, walked out of classrooms to protest gun violence in schools and stand in solidarity with students nationwide.

At Regis, nearly 400 students, joined by faculty, administrators and staff, participated in a walkout on their campus in Denver, CO. Standing before the crowd, Yael Greene, the freshman organizer of the walkout, paid tribute to the victims, reading each name and sharing details about that person before asking the crowd to observe a moment of silence.

“Regis will not tolerate the horrific murders of these innocent teachers and students,” said Greene, as she addressed the crowd. “We are the voice of change … enough is enough.”

The walk outs led to concerns about disciplinary action nationally but not at Regis.

“Here at Regis, we teach civil discourse and activism,” said University President, Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., in a message to the community on February 24. “Student advocacy is a brave step toward justice. We are for and with students who choose to speak up, to participate and to stand for something.”

Regis was among the first colleges in Colorado to issue a statement of support after a Texas superintendent stated shortly after the nationwide protest began that students would face suspensions. The University joined more than 100 colleges and universities, including those of its Jesuit brothers and sisters, to reassure high school students that they would not be penalized during the admissions process should they get suspended for participating in peaceful protests.

Sophomore and student organizer Amelia Rouyer said, “Mass shootings have become far too common in our society. It feels like such a regular thing today and I believe that shootings should never, ever feel normal.”

Safe Spaces

Regis is committed to creating and maintaining a safe and respectful community. The Regis Violence Prevention Program (RVPP), made up in part by students and faculty advisers, is an on-campus and online support network that hosts programs and resources that help to promote healthy relationships, foster a safe environment, and support students who have experienced sexual violence, dating abuse and stalking.

Last spring, RVPP students led an effort to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault. The Consent Carnival brought together a number of organizations across campus to talk about this serious issue in a safe and comfortable space.

Sexual assault is pervasive on college campuses. According to research from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. Equally troubling: 90 percent of those who have experienced sexual assault do not report the crime.

“Sexual assault is such a prevalent issue that needs to be talked about,” said Josie Brady, a violence prevention educator and sophomore majoring in Peace and Justice Studies. “The goal of events like the Consent Carnival is to make sure our University community feels safe and that they are aware of all of the resources available to them.”

The carnival was a big success, with students not only enjoying the event itself, but the overarching idea of promoting healthy relationships and violence prevention through fellowship. Student activists like Brady recognize the need to have more events involving the whole community, since many of these issues exist outside of Regis as well. “There are many issues that need to be addressed and dealt with, like sexual assault and consent, and it is in the students’ voices and ideas that these issues will begin to be resolved,” said Brady.

Celebrating Our Differences

In a world in which our differences seem to set us on edge, Regis believes that they should instead thrive in a learning environment that is characterized by the Jesuit traditions of respect and the pursuit of justice.

One great example of how students are helping to facilitate dialogue that celebrates our unique qualities is the One Book, One Regis initiative developed by the University’s Office of Diversity. Last fall, students were invited to participate in a series of book discussions centered around “Across That Bridge,” by author and civil rights leader, Representative John Lewis (D-GA). The book was chosen for discussion in part because of its focus on Lewis’ recollections from a lifetime of work on civil and economic justice, which offer great parallels to present-day issues regarding race and equality.

The idea for the initiative stemmed in part from Fr. Fitzgibbons’ response to the DACA repeal last October. He highlighted our responsibility as members of a Jesuit institution to examine the “dynamics of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality and culture and the structures that perpetuate the inequities of privilege and power in America.”

The initiative is part of the larger #RUagainsthate social media campaign, which seeks to unite our community around our commitment to justice and inclusion — on campus and beyond.

“Our hope is that the conversations [this hashtag] stirs will move us toward concrete actions that we can take, as we confront division and injustice,” said Nicki Gonzales, vice provost for diversity and inclusion. “We hope to make the program a tradition for years to come.”

Whether is it organizing campus walkouts and peaceful protests, or developing discussion groups and informational fairs, students at Regis not only speak up about the issues that are important to them, they take action. With encouragement from faculty and staff, they continually set an example for what it is to be #JesuitEducated, asking themselves and others, “How ought we to live?”

By Deborah Lohse, Assistant Director of Media and Internal Communications, Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University students staged a walkout to support undocumented students in 2016. Student groups hope more examples of "allyship" will be encouraged this year, including in the voting booth, during Allyship Week on campus (photo courtesy of…

Santa Clara University students staged a walkout to support undocumented students in 2016. Student groups hope more examples of “allyship” will be encouraged this year, including in the voting booth, during Allyship Week on campus (photo courtesy of Santa Clara University)

When Santa Clara University senior Chris Carpio arrived on campus in 2015, he had not spent a lot of time thinking about the importance or impact of ballot-box issues like immigration, the environment, gun control or access to education.

But a few things happened to change that. As part of his work with the Filipino student organization, Barkada, Carpio joined the campus Multicultural Center (MCC) and was introduced to the idea of solidarity, including becoming an educator to those who, like his younger self, don’t think such issues are important.

Then, the 2016 presidential election occurred. Carpio said, “This really caused a lot of the MCC and people of color to be challenged in their stances and views in the world. Really big changes were happening, and we had to know where we stood. If you are part of this community, you are committing to these values, which is kind of asking a lot of people sometimes.”

Since then, Santa Clara students like Carpio have staged large rallies on campus in support of undocumented students, and a large walkout last spring, to protest the explosion of gun violence that has been threatening student safety nationwide.

This fall, in anticipation of the midterm elections and to spread the message of solidarity beyond active members like Carpio, the MCC and the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP) are hosting a weeklong program of activities called Allyship Week. Throughout the week, groups representing specific racial, ethnic, political and even environmental-protection communities on campus, will be tabling and sharing ideas for how Santa Clara students can be allies to them —and explaining why that matters.

“It’s hugely important in our modern political culture, which demonizes others— be it other political parties, groups or immigrants—to bring that humanity to issues,” said Isabella Whitworth, associate director of SCCAP. “By giving students an opportunity to learn about these communities, it makes us all more conscientious voters.”

The groups expect a showing from environmental clubs, whose members will show how students can make choices and speak up in the public realm as environmental allies. Groups representing women in business and engineering are also expected to be present, as well as others whose marginalization is being spotlighted by current events.

“Allyship Week lets students know what communities we have here at Santa Clara,” said Emily Mun, associate director of MCC. When students go to vote, “they can ask their representatives what they stand for, and what impact they are going to have on each student’s community —and those around them.”

One voice students will hear during Allyship Week will be that of activist Johanna Toruño, a gay woman of color who uses art in Brooklyn as “artivism,” to share her truths and build allyship. She will conduct a workshop to teach Santa Clara students about “artivism.”

Whitworth said, “The last thing I would want to see is someone watching the news and getting upset, and for them to get apathetic and feel like they are powerless. A huge part of allyship is recognizing how many groups there are around you. Now, how can we give them the mic and help bolster their voices?”

Allyship Week will be a great complement to the variety of events planned on campus related to the midterm elections, including:

By Maura Sullivan Hill, Writer, Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago senior Will Gaudet (right) registers to vote in the Damen Student Center on September 25 as part of a National Voter Registration Day drive. In advance of the 2018 midterm elections, Loyola helped nearly 800 students regist…

Loyola University Chicago senior Will Gaudet (right) registers to vote in the Damen Student Center on September 25 as part of a National Voter Registration Day drive. In advance of the 2018 midterm elections, Loyola helped nearly 800 students register to vote through registration events on campus. (Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

Loyola University Chicago law student Grant Bosnich is among a group of student volunteers leading a campaign on Loyola’s campuses to register students to vote this fall. Taking on a leadership role in the democratic process might seem natural for a future lawyer, but Bosnich’s motivation comes from an unexpected source: his own failure to vote in the 2016 election.

“I made every excuse for why I didn’t vote in 2016—lack of enthusiasm for a particular candidate, a long primary cycle—but in reality, I just made a mistake,” Bosnich says. “I don’t want any student on this campus to have any excuse not to vote.”

Last spring, Bosnich joined in an effort led by the Loyola Law Democrats to promote voter information and registration on campus. Then, he jumped in to the university-wide campaign to register students to vote in advance of the 2018 mid-term election. The fact that Loyola as an institution has committed itself to promoting civic engagement among the student body has only further inspired Bosnich to get involved.

“When the school invests in an idea or a program,” he says, “the message behind that investment trickles down to the student body. And that message has been received: voting matters.”

It is an important message at a time when the country is facing sharp partisan divides, but the commitment to civic engagement is nothing new for Loyola. Encouraging students to be active in the political process stems from the University’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and its commitment to social justice. Loyola promotes these values in the classroom and through service in the wider community, but it also aims to teach students that they have a voice to speak on the issues that matter to them at the ballot box.

“Voting is important not only to elect the best people; it is also where you can begin to affect positive change, however you view that change,” says Philip Hale, Loyola’s vice president of government affairs and civic engagement. “Voting is the foundation of everything that follows: being involved in your communities and getting to know your neighbors. We talk a lot about educating men and women for others, and the other is your neighbor. The other is the person who thinks differently from you.”

Fighting for social justice

Loyola students participated in letter-writing campaigns to ask their congressional representatives to pass the DREAM Act. (Photo: Dominique Ochoa)

Loyola students participated in letter-writing campaigns to ask their congressional representatives to pass the DREAM Act. (Photo: Dominique Ochoa)

This type of participation is even more important today, at a time when many students feel like institutions are failing them.

Michael Murphy, Ph.D., a theology professor and director of Loyola’s Hank Center for Catholic Intellectual Heritage, says that he used to worry that students were complacent and disengaged. But today’s Loyola students are attentive to and hungry for justice, and increasingly engaged in this political moment. He says, “Five years ago, so many students were not voting—despite my pleas. Not today.”

Murphy has seen students in the University’s Catholic Studies minor take an active role in working toward positive change in the Catholic Church. He’s been inspired by Loyola’s Student Environmental Alliance, whose members are using scientific reasoning to challenge leaders on critical environmental issues. Every day, he speaks to students who are making a difference through service, scholarship and prayer. Murphy says, “This is the hope for anybody who loves democracy and the beautiful hope of the American project and, more importantly, the human project—our lives together in God.”

These student actions embody a commitment on the part of Loyola that extends beyond simply registering to vote. Loyola students are participating in the democratic process at local, state and national levels—and not just in election years—in the name of social justice.

When Illinois state funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) was in jeopardy, students rallied in support of the program, which helps low-income students afford tuition at Illinois colleges and universities through grants. Loyola students have also mobilized in support of the DREAM Act, advocating for the rights of undocumented students after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was rescinded. More than 1,500 students sent letters in support of DACA recipients to Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), to ask for her support in passage of the bipartisan DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for current DACA recipients.

While the University, alongside the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, officially supported the DREAM Act, members of the Loyola community were encouraged to contact their congressional representatives no matter which side of the debate they were on.

“Registering to vote is the starting point. First you have to register, then you need to become an informed voter,” says Hale. “Our job is to encourage students to apply the same academic rigor that they bring to their classes to voting and their civic education.”

Exercising the right to vote

But the first step for students is taking the time to register. Loyola has tried to make the process easier for incoming freshmen, by giving them an opportunity to register during Welcome Week events this fall, and through open voter registration sessions on campus as part of National Voter Registration Day on September 25.

As a result of these events, nearly 800 students have either registered to vote, requested an absentee ballot, or updated their addresses. Organizers also estimate that approximately 600 of the people they interacted with were already registered, like first-year student Stephanie Dehoorne, who voted in the primaries in her home state of Michigan and requested her absentee ballot at Loyola’s registration drive.

“As a woman, I think it is really important to take advantage of the right to vote,” Dehoorne says. “Especially in this political climate, with all of the problems that we have, it is important for youth to take advantage of the right to vote, and I’m grateful that we have resources like this at Loyola.”