On Friday, Feb. 14, students contacted their local representatives about a variety of issues through the Vote100 campaign’s Day of Action. As part of their mission to increase civic engagement on campus, members of Vote100 encouraged students to call, email, and write letters and postcards addressed to the offices of government officials.
Other student groups, including the Asian American Students Association (AASA) and Princeton Against Gun Violence set up neighboring tables to speak with students about specific issues.
“We’re doing a great job of trying to encourage people to vote, but we need to have more conversation about what does civic engagement mean beyond voting,” said Kauribel Javier ’19, a Program Coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS), which sponsors Vote100. Javier hoped the event would present different ways in which students can engage with their representatives.
Javier explained that a lack of time may be another reason students are not prioritizing civic engagement.
“I can see that students are really busy. Time is a really coveted resource on this campus and sometimes you don’t have time to write to your representative or to engage civically,” she said.
Morgan Smith ’21, a student leader with Vote100, agreed that time constraints may be an issue.
“I do think that because we’re so busy, it’s very easy for students to come across as apathetic,” she said, “But I do think at the end of the day that we all as Princetonians care about something and that days like these at least give students the opportunity to use their voice and talk about those concerns that they’re having.”
During the event, Smith wrote a “letter of encouragement” to Senator Kamala Harris, who represents her home state of California.
Claire Wayner ’22, President of PSCI, said that the turnout for the event was “very low.” She wondered whether students were busy, if the publicity for the event was inadequate, or “people just don’t care about politics or political engagement.”
Wayner is an opinion columnist for the ‘Prince’.
Wayner said that students are also not sufficiently informed about how the government is responding to climate issues.
“People assume that nothing is being done on climate change,” she said, “but in reality, a lot of different representatives are trying to do their best to introduce bills. They just get stalled.”
The Princeton Student Climate Initiative (PSCI) distributed a list of 14 pieces of legislation related to climate that are currently in the House and the Senate.
Nearby, AASA members spoke with students about Asian American representation in the census and the importance of participation by students who are away at college.
“A lot of college students here don’t know that they actually have a say in the census because their parents usually do it for them. So what we’re advocating for is that you should be aware that you have a role to play in the census,” said Jennifer Lee ’23, an AASA member at the event.
Lee explained that Asian American voting rates and census participation are lacking and need more support from representatives. She noted that University students could do more to be civically engaged.
“I found coming to school that a lot of people don’t read the news and a lot of people don’t know what’s going [on],” Lee said. “There are things that we can do on the home front and that involves taking the initiative to read the news, to become informed, and to engage in political discourse.”
This academic year, Vote100 also held a voter registration drive at Labyrinth Books and Democratic debate watch parties in collaboration with the Whig-Cliosophic Society. The group plans to increase its activities as the presidential election approaches.