TN Civic Coalition Vision

Colleges and universities in TN are embracing the responsibility to foster the next generation of informed, engaged citizens necessary for TN democracy to grow. The U.S. Higher Education Act requires institutions of higher learning to facilitate voter registration on their campuses but does not provide federal instruction on how best to fulfill the mandate. Misunderstandings and myths about student voting cause confusion among students and administrators and within local communities, and stumbling blocks often limit student access to the polls.

The goal of TN’s statewide Civic Campus Coalition is to facilitate institutions’ improved understanding about best practices to support administration, faculty, students, and student organizations in their efforts to increase civic and electoral participation and engagement.

The TN Civic Campus Coalition will help administrators, faculty, and students set clear campus goals and develop strategies for increased student engagement. Each institution already has student voter registration and student voting procedures well in place, but because TN continues to demonstrate the lowest voter turnout repetitively in national elections, our schools’ student voting efforts have enormous room for improvement.

Institutions of higher education are the forefront of civic learning and citizenship education in our state, so we all must increase our work. Previously institutionalized processes can be improved. Student engagement can be revitalized. Student voting can explode. Procedures and pathways can be set in place in 2018 to recommit our institutions to their civic purposes for years to come, nurturing student engagement from the first-year experience through seasoned voters by the time of graduation.

When TN’s institutions of higher education make civic learning and civic engagement central, not peripheral, on their campuses, they not only help students better understand their own impacts on neighbors, society, the nation, and the world, schools also advance students’ civic competencies that enrich Tennessee communities all across our state. Incorporating democratic engagement into campus life creates structures and stability for students as they explore their political beliefs and their responsibilities in our participatory democracy. Increasing student voting embeds habits of citizenship that last far beyond the collegiate experience.

The TN Civic Campus Coalition will promote civic learning and engagement on campuses throughout TN by providing workshops and panels of local and national experts in student voting, campus organizing, and civic education. Together at the summit, we will reexamine, reaffirm, re-energize, and recommit to the best practices that build civic capacity in our students and a TN Civic Campus at our home institution.

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