By Meg Lappe

In order to encourage voting in this year’s election, the many groups on campus tried to prepare the student body by informing them about the issues and candidates.

Timothy Horner, Ph.D., from the Center for Peace and Justice Education, hosted Election 2012 “Smack the Vote” to inform the students about a variety of topics that affect this year’s election.  “Smack the Vote” was hosted in the Corr Hall Lounge for 23 minutes each week.

Horner presented to the students where each candidate stands on issues such as gay marriage, women, taxes, wealth/poverty, the Middle East and human nature. The purpose of “Smack the Vote” was to cut through all of the rhetoric surrounding the issues and explain what each candidate really stands for.

New students showed up each week because there was a lot of curiosity from the student body. These concise explanations were so popular that they developed into “Smack Plus,” where students who wanted to talk about the issues stayed for an extra 20 to 30 minutes just to continue the dialogue that Horner had started.

“Smack the Vote” started on Sept. 13 and ended on Oct. 31.

After students learned about the issues, a few groups on campus wanted to make sure that University students were able to vote. Campus Activities Team and Student Government Association paired up with the Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania, Villanova Political Awareness Club, Villanova University College Democrats and Villanova University College Republicans in order to raise awareness for “Ignite Change, Go Vote!”

These groups set up voter registration tables in the Pit, the Spit and St. Mary’s Hall from Tuesday, Sept. 25 to Friday, Sept. 28, which resulted in over 400 students registering to vote. These groups also provided a shuttle service to and from the voting polls all day on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. out of Pike Lot.

“Ultimately, the point was to engage students and make sure their voices are heard during this elections,” says Chessy Gortzounian, a member of CAT. “Young people often do not recognize the impact that they can have, and we thought we would give them more incentive to act.”

The Honors department also ran a series of three election-related events starting in September.

The first event consisted of students brainstorming issues that are the most important to them. There was no discussion of the issues, just research. The students also learned information about voter registration.

The next event occurred two weeks later, when students discussed each candidate’s view on a variety of issues including the debt, jobs and unemployment. They discussed what each candidate thought and were very nonpartisan. The goal was to inform voters and allow the students to understand the issues beyond the candidates.

A mock debate was the third and final event, which was co-sponsored by the leadership learning community, the peace and justice program, the ethics program and the Villanova mock trial team. Allison Payne, Ph.D., the associate director of the Honors program, moderated the debate.  There were four students from the mock trial team that represent the four candidates who could possibly win the presidency with 270 electoral votes.

The four students that participated were Schawn-Paul Rotella, who represented Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, Greg Thompso, who represented Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, Colleen Lineweaver, who represented Barack Obama and Wyatt Baron, who represented Mitt Romney.

The four students were asked questions created by students and professors before the debate and also questions sent in through Twitter during the debate. Following a formal debate style, each candidate was given one to two minutes to give his or her side and then each candidate was able to respond to that answer.

“I believe the students did a very good job of representing the candidates,” says Greg Hoskins, Ph.D., who was on the planning committee for the mock debate. About 70 students and 10 professors attended the debate.

Throughout all of these events, there was an overarching theme.

“Our intention was to not only get students out to vote, but to make them informed voters,” says Payne.


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