Working with the voter education arm of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Belmont is one of 150 institutions nationwide participating this fall in College Debate 16, a non-partisan initiative to empower young voters to identify issues and engage peers in the presidential election.
A student team, led by junior journalism major Riley Wallace, was convened in the spring to lead Belmont’s work on this initiative, and plans began to form under the banner #BruinVote16. This summer the team joined forces with leadership from SGA and SAPB to combine efforts for educational programs and voter registration promotion. Events already scheduled include debate watch parties, voter registration drives, informative convos and a documentary screening on civil discourse.
In June, Wallace attended a conference at Dominican University of California with other College Debate 2016 delegates from across the country. Dr. Syb Brown, professor of media studies, also served as featured speaker at the College Debate ’16 June conference, leading the delegates in a discussion on “Digital Citizenship.” Wallace said, “Being involved with #CollegeDebate16 was really interesting in that it showed the scope of how involved a college student can be within the political process, whether that’s working alongside policy-influencing organizations, expressing ourselves through the vote or organizing events to help bring attention to issues important to us and our peers. It was powerful to consider the amount of change possible just through the students in that room.”
Chris Dickerson, president of Belmont SGA, and the SGA and SAPB leadership teams were already hard at work on putting together programming for Fall 2016 to encourage an informed campus environment around election season. “Every year Student Governments across the state of Tennessee are charged by the Secretary of State’s office to engage with their campuses through voter registration drives and events geared towards political participation. This year, I’m excited that SGA and Belmont have taken this charge to an entirely new level through the efforts of #BruinVote16. People have given their lives fighting for the right to vote, and it is our collective responsibility to engage in the political process and make sure that our voices are heard.”
Wallace adds that she hopes the #BruinVote16 efforts also change how she and her peers converse on important issues.
“Through this program, I’d like to bring that sense of empowerment to Belmont’s campus. I’d love for BruinVote16 to help foster civil discussions on issues that will affect college students during and after the upcoming presidential election and provide welcoming and accessible platforms where students can learn more about our government and their role in it.”
Brown and Wallace are both participating in the organization’s next event Sept. 6-7, once again at Dominican University of California.
For more information and to view a current listing of events, visit bruinvote.belmont.edu.