To get the legislative support it wants, the Alumni Association’s Legislative Network is trying to influence which legislators have the power to cast a vote for the University.
Now in its 15th year, an official from the network said, the “Vote for the U” campaign hit campus harder than ever this fall to ask voters to elect University proponents.
Since starting the campaign at the state fair, the group dotted campus with 500 maroon-and-gold signs promoting the program, with more plans coming soon, said Mike Dean, Legislative Network grassroots campaign coordinator.
“Our goal right now is to get as many people out there to pledge for the University,” he said.
The nonpartisan effort asks community members to advocate for the University by holding legislators responsible for making higher-education issues a top priority, he said.
The University is one of the state’s greatest assets, and that message needs to be delivered to legislators, he said.
“I think for a very long time students, staff and faculty, and alumni went into different directions, and thus, weren’t very effective,” he said.
Senior Peter Magnuson said he saw the hundreds of maroon-and-gold “Vote for the U” signs posted around the campus last week, but had no idea why they were there.
The campaign is a good idea, he said, but it is probably lost on most students.
Magnuson, a political science and sociology student, said the campaign tactics do not faze him.
“I’ve seen so much around campus that it really didn’t make much of a difference,” he said.
He said he already knows whom he will vote for in the Nov. 2 election. While higher-education issues will affect whom he casts his vote for, especially because of annual tuition hikes, he does not solely base his decision on them.
Dean said it is important for everybody with a stake in the University to vote.
“For many students, it will be the first time for them to vote in an election,” he said.
To further encourage people to vote, the Student Public Affairs Coalition, a partnership between the Minnesota Student Association and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, is helping fund the campaign, hand out voter-registration cards and host informative election events, MSA Vice President Amy Jo Pierce said.
“In general, we’re trying to get as many students (as possible) to register,” Pierce said.
The group’s goal is 8,000, she said.
Some students said the “Vote for the U” voter goal was unrealistic.
“In general, we’re the age who (doesn’t) really vote,” junior Om Padhye said.
Yet, the neuroscience and psychology student said voting is one of the most fundamental rights of people.
Tuition is important to students right now, said Dan Miller, no relation to the Minnesota Daily reporter, vice president of public affairs for GAPSA. If they want to keep increases down, they have to support the University’s requests at the State Legislature, he said.
“I think any campaign that gets anyone, any age, any race out to vote is good,” he said.
So far, more than 2,500 people have pledged to vote for the University, Dean said. By November’s election, he said he hopes the total swells to 10,000.
Communication studies professor Dean Hewes said he has not pledged his vote for the University through the campaign. Because he already votes, he said, he does not plan to pledge.
“I’m kind of sad the University has to take that role,” he said.
Lynne Ackerberg, an English-as-a-second-language instructor, said the University needs the support from the Legislature.
“Maybe we haven’t been making enough (of a) case,” she said.
Three important issues in higher education will have an impact on the University in the coming year, Dean said.
State legislators will discuss a biennium request for a significant amount of University funding at the upcoming legislative session, he said, in addition to a bonding bill that will likely also be considered.
But legislative support for the University is also important in the national Capitol, where legislators are considering the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, he said.
“It’s never been such an important time at the University both in St. Paul and in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Now is the University community’s chance to ensure its voice is heard, or sit on the sidelines and let the legislators decide, he said.