Two universities have taken the lead to encourage positive student engagement in the electoral process through MAGNIFY. Both George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin have launched “Democracy Squads.” These on-line sites challenge students to participate in a variety of non-partisan projects related to the 2020 election.
Students can learn how to register and to vote remotely during a pandemic, or volunteer to address absentee ballots. By organizing virtual “parties” to watch the upcoming Vice Presidential and Presidential debates, they can encourage their fellow students to participate. Each project is expected to exemplify a high standard for civil discourse, that is, dialogue marked by respectful listening to the opinions of others.
A core value undergirding the site: democracy is always a work in progress. Each generation brings unique insights and values to that work. Despite the pandemic limitations, each individual can contribute in some way.
“Democracy Squads” also represents an effort to counter the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness exacerbated by the pandemic. The need has never been greater to give students a sense of belonging by helping them connect with community members with similar interests. “Democracy Squads” seek to combat hopelessness by providing provides easily accessible paths to positive action.
With hundreds of students (and more than 50% participation), the “Democracy Squads” at George Mason University and University of Texas at Austin are demonstrating the capacity of students to raise their voices and help all of us run fair elections, cast ballots, and be part of civic life.
Other universities who would like to form their own “Democracy Squads” are welcome to join George Mason University and the University of Texas at Austin through MAGNIFY in their effort to establish a positive political climate on campus not only during the next two months but also beyond the 2020 election. Sign up here or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.