Gephardt Institute, Student Affairs partner to create post-election initiative

| Contributing Reporter

The Gephardt Institute of Civic and Community Engagement and the Division of Student Affairs are joining together in hopes to encourage continuous civic and voter engagement within the Washington University community.

The program, “November 9 and Beyond,” aims to keep the community engaged, especially following the election—a plan they kickstarted prior to the beginning of the semester, when University administrators began thinking of ways to support students and continue political conversations following Election Day.

Stephanie Kurtzman, interim executive director of the Gephardt Institute, noted that waiting until major election years to encourage participation in the political process is often inefficient.

“What we’ve learned is that to mount an effort every four years or two years or every election cycle to get students to vote is not the right the way to go. It’s to bring constant conversation around political engagement and policy issues to the University 365 [days a year],” Kurtzman said.

In addition to supporting civic dialogue, November 9th and Beyond will feature a variety of campus-wide programming that address topics ranging from self-care to the election’s historical context. Gephardt and Student Affairs hopes to see more post-election programming from all members of the Washington University community.

“The initiative is about engaging our campus community in a continued conversation about politics and policy at the national, state and local level beyond the election. It’s a recognition that the issues that were there before continue to be there,” Kurtzman added.

James Parker, chief of staff and associate dean of strategic initiatives, emphasized that the development of November 9th and Beyond was not reactionary.

“It was more about an acknowledgment that it’s been a pretty divisive election cycle between the candidates and folks,” Parker said. “We started having a conversation about what we would need to do at the time to respond to either concerns or feelings of frustration, anger, happiness, etc.”

Parker noted that the University put tremendous thought into how to address students’ needs.

“We participated in a phone call with 80 other universities asking this question: ‘What were we going to do as a higher education [institute] when clearly there was a divide in the country?’” Parker said. “We wanted people to move forward and understand that no matter who won, people still need to participate in the process.”

Kurtzman emphasized the importance of student involvement in local and state elections, using the upcoming mayoral election as an example.

“We certainly want to encourage attention and participation in the upcoming mayoral election in the City of St. Louis. Obviously a lot of undergraduates don’t live in the City of St. Louis but it affects all of us,” Kurtzman said. “And so we should be paying attention even if we don’t have a vote.”

For more information about November 9th and Beyond, click here.

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