PR campaign targets students

The University’s PRSSA chapter aims to increase student participation in the 2010 Census.

Carly Schramm

A University of Minnesota public relations group is trying to help the U.S. Census Bureau increase student participation and used the voice of a state senator to make its point in a forum Wednesday afternoon. The University chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America organized the event, held in room 100 in Murphy Hall, to promote and inform students about the census , which will begin in March. The presentation featured a speech by state Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud , who laid out reasons why student participation in the census was important. Minnesota is at risk of losing one of its eight congressional seats in the House of Representatives, which is based on population numbers. Low participation in the 2010 census could result in the loss of that seat and billions of dollars in federal funding. Clark, who plans to run against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., could see the seat eliminated if the districts are redrawn. Without an accurate census, Clark said, âÄúwe will suffer a loss at the national level.âÄù Bachmann has been criticized for her vow not to participate in the census because she believes it is an invasion of privacy. To prove her point, she cited census statistics in the 1940s used to gather Japanese-Americans into internment camps. However, according to Title 13 of the U.S. Code, participation in the census is required. The U.S. Code also ensures that your responses remain confidential. âÄúYour information is kept private for 70 years,âÄù Clark said. âÄúYou will be gone before anyone sees anything from you.âÄù Students at the event learned about the importance of the census but were oblivious to the fact that the presentation was actually part of the Bateman Case Study Competition , held annually through the PRSSA. Each year, the PRSSA selects a new client to promote. This year, the U.S. Census Bureau signed on to get students involved. The competition aims to teach public relations students how to solve problems and think critically, and the University chapter of PRSSA is competing against collegiate chapters nationally to win a first-place prize of $2,500 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May for the 2010 PRSSA national conference. In order to raise awareness about the campaign, the UniversityâÄôs PRSSA chapter has been using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, along with traditional advertising methods such as visiting classrooms and contacting student associations. The group has been planning the campaign since October. Competition rules prohibit promoting the campaign before February, and the group will continue working until the campaigns are submitted March 29. Three team members and one adviser from the winning chapter will present the campaign to the U.S. Census Board on May 13 and 14. Cynthia Gee, a 22-year-old biology, society and environment major, heard about the event through a mass e-mail and came because she was interested in working for the census. The U.S. Census Bureau has targeted students to fill temporary positions gathering statistics door-to-door. They are offering about $12 an hour. Because of the low turnout for the presentation, PRSSA Firm Director Chelsea Ruka and Bateman Case Study Competition member Stephanie Trow ran the presentation a second time when more students trickled in. Ruka said the turnout was not as big as she expected, but she believes the event was still effective. She said she believes the students who came will tell others and encourage them to participate. âÄúThe people who came definitely got a lot out of it,âÄù she said. In the census, students are counted where they live for the majority of the year. Students living off-campus will receive a census form in the mail, which is to be completed and mailed back by Census Day, April 1. Students living at home will not have to worry about filling out the form, because they will be counted in the form sent to the parents or head of the household. Students living on-campus in residential halls, sororities or fraternities are considered to live in âÄúgroup quartersâÄù and will be counted by residential hall directors and staff who will distribute and collect the forms from residents.