OU named one of America’s ‘Best Colleges for Student Voting’

Katarina Kovac, Campus Editor

A growing number of universities are using their institutional power to increase student turnout on their campuses, spurred by a desire to develop students into better citizens. Oakland University has been ranked among a group of 58 schools earning the top score in this year’s “Washington Monthly” annual College Guide and Rankings in the category of “Best Colleges for Student Voting.”

The first-of-its-kind list grades each school on their efforts to turn students into active citizen voters. A total of 1,488 schools were evaluated.

Young people have the power to make a difference, and an important way to achieve this is to make their voices heard at the polls on Election Day. OU is striving to become a part of young voter engagement.

“I think it’s simply a testament to the engagement that happens all over campus, from opportunities offered by student organizations to activities happening in different departments, as well as the University’s work in community engagement,” said David Dulio, Ph.D., director of OU’s Center for Civic Engagement and political science professor.

Students on campus have access to many organizations that strive to increase student voter turnout. Along with a number of partisan organizations, there are administrative bodies such as the Center for Civic Engagement that work to bolster those that emanate from other areas on campus. Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) has also striven for years to make sure students have their voice heard, making it one of their top priorities.

Ryan Fox, president of OUSC, believes that voters aged 18-35 often have the lowest turnout nationwide, which leads politicians to often neglect the needs of younger individuals.

“This makes it extremely important for young people to voice their opinion to politicians, and the best way to do that is by voting,” Fox said. “There is a great deal of excitement in the air due to the amount of political unrest we have seen in the past few years. There have been a great deal of political and social norms that have been flipped on their head, and young people want to be part of either assisting with or preventing these changes.”

Students can become involved simply by making sure their classmates both vote and are registered to do so.

“We actually saw a slight decline in turnout between 2012 and 2016, yet still earned a Bronze Seal for voter participation,” Dulio said. “One interesting thing about OU students is that of those students who were registered to vote in 2016 (just over 70 percent of all students), nearly 81 percent voted. When OU students are registered, they vote. That’s why voter registration efforts—like the one sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement during GrizzFest—are important.”

Only three other schools in the state of Michigan made the list. Joining OU with top marks were Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University and the University of Michigan.

This ranking is another positive sign that OU students are engaged, civic-minded and take their voting rights seriously. Young voters account for half of the voting population, making them a powerful political force, and in order to directly influence issues that might affect their lives for years to come, including college tuition reform and federal job programs, students should remain involved in the political climate.