GSU named a 2022 Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting


Chris Weber

Professor Crystal Harris and Student Senate President Marquis Parks speak at a voting town hall event on Nov. 30.

Chris Weber, Phoenix Staff Writer

Thanks to Professor Crystal Harris Ph. D, and her team, GSU has been nationally recognized for its efforts to get out the vote. Harris launched the “GSU Voter Education Initiative” to help increase voter participation, engagement, and education in the run-up to the 2022 election.

The “ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge” encourages political engagement across college campuses in the U.S. GSU participated in the inaugural challenge by fulfilling the requirements. These included: getting more students to vote, convening a working group for the effort, participating in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, and developing/implementing a “data-driven action plan to improve civic learning, political engagement, and voter participation.” Because of this participation, GSU was named a “2022 Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting.”

Harris led a campaign that worked to foster non-partisan democratic student engagement through the Ask Every Student grant. This grant was awarded to GSU and helped to fund voter registration drives and other non-partisan voting efforts. Harris recruited and encouraged GSU students, faculty, and staff to increase the impact of the GSU community in the recent election. Harris coordinated the “Students Learn Students Vote Coalition” which consisted of a core group of members that worked to plan, implement, and achieve these goals. 

Many of Harris’s efforts to increase voter participation were focused on her own students. Harris educated her students about the history of voting, taught them why it is important, and helped them to understand what they would be voting for in the 2022 election. She encouraged her colleagues to have similar conversations with their classes. Harris had many discussions about the courage required to develop nonpartisan political lessons in a classroom.

Professor Crystal Harris and students at the voting initiative town hall event. (Chris Weber)

On Nov. 30, Harris hosted a dinner and town hall format meeting for the members of the GSU community who were involved in the voting campaign. This gathering served as a way to debrief and have some fun after all the work the group did during the election. It also served as a way for Harris to thank and reward some of the many people who helped her increase voter turnout. “The beauty about being [at GSU] for a long time is that when ideas pan out, you get something like this,” said Harris.

At the town hall, a selection of GSU students highlighted the importance of voting. Student Senate President Marquis Parks was one of the students who spoke at the event. Parks recently attended an event at the White House that encouraged conversations about reproductive rights. “After working with Dr. Harris, I have taken a lot more pride in going to vote and knowing who to vote for,” said Parks. “I understand and know that every vote does matter.”

Dr. Phyllis West, the Director of the Social Justice Initiative at GSU and a member of the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, also made some brief comments to the crowd. “It has been an absolute honor and pleasure to work with Dr. Harris. She is our fierce leader. She had a vision that the social justice initiative should be a part of voting and voter education at GSU,” said West. West also said that the work GSU is doing to educate and inform students and encourage activism is key to a better future.

Guests had an opportunity to win door prizes in a raffle, communicate about the issues that were important to them, and play some games at the town hall event. 

Lady Verleaner Lane, Chapter President of the Will County Black Diamond Ladies of Distinction and a GSU alumni, gave out gift bags to students that participated in surveys about voting. Lane said that her group had worked to increase voter registration and understand the issues that were important to young women in the community. According to Lane, they found that social issues, including reproductive rights, crime, and police brutality were at the top of the list for the people they surveyed.