On its website, the Tufts admissions office emphasizes that its student body is “civically engaged.” Thanks to the dedication of groups affiliated with Tisch College, this phrase is not merely an ideal, but a reality.
The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life aims to “prepare students for a lifetime of engagement in civic and democratic life.” Affiliated organizations including JumboVote, Cooperation and Innovation in Citizenship and Advancing Civic Thought in Our Nation help achieve this vision.
According to Alex Landy, co-chair of JumboVote, perhaps the most important way to engage in American democracy is by casting your ballot.
“Voting is obviously a critical part of civic engagement, and that’s an essential part of what Tufts represents in many ways,” Landy said.
JumboVote is a nonpartisan organization at Tufts that works to provide students with the resources and information necessary to help students vote. Their website is full of important links and timelines, turning a potentially stressful process into just a few clicks of a button.
Landy emphasized why it’s so important to facilitate this process and to vote in local elections, even in off-year election cycles.
“As elections become increasingly nationalized, it’s really important to continue to vote in local elections and to make sure that your voice is heard, not just in the so-called important elections on the national level, but … at the local level,” Landy said. “As the phrase goes, all politics is local.”
Assembling important resources like the TurboVote platform, social media reminders and even a shuttle service to physically get students to the polls, members of JumboVote work hard to ensure that Tufts students are able to make their voices heard.
Furthermore, JumboVote works with New England organizations such as NESCAC Votes and the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge to promote civic engagement, with Tufts even anticipating hosting a NESCAC Votes conference in February.
But is their hard work truly paying off?
According to data collected by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, the answer is a resounding yes. With over three-quarters of the Tufts population registering to vote, the Tufts student body overperformed national registration rates in both 2016 and 2018.
“As we’ve seen, the registration rate at Tufts increased significantly in the past several years. And that is also true of the voting rate of Tufts students and the turnout rate of Tufts students. So our efforts are clearly working,” Landy said.
While keeping Tufts students up-to-date on voting opportunities is essential, it is also important to stay cognizant of contemporary political issues that your vote can impact.
This is where CIVIC comes into play.
Connor DeBoda, co-president of CIVIC, explained that the group is dedicated to providing a space for discussion of a wide variety of political issues, spanning from those affecting the Tufts community to global matters.
“CIVIC is a nonpartisan discussion group. Our focus is … a lot less on debate and more focused truly on discussion and trying to bridge the political divide,” DeBoda said.
Meeting every Monday night in the Mayer Campus Center, students in CIVIC participate in moderated discussions and abide by rules such as “be kind before being correct” and “listen intentionally, speak intentionally.”
Everyone gets an opportunity to share their unique perspective, no matter their political affiliation — something DeBoda believes to be essential for CIVIC to function.
“I think we do a pretty good job of making sure all different perspectives are heard,” DeBoda said. “We have a very good relationship with the Tufts Democrats and the Tufts Republicans, and both of them come to our meetings sometimes.”
With exciting events such as their annual Tufts Democrats versus Tufts Republicans debate, CIVIC is a great organization for students who are passionate about politics as well as those who are only beginning to engage in politics. CIVIC provides informational summary sheets at every meeting to provide baseline information on each topic. In addition, CIVIC can help teach participants how to successfully and respectably express their opinions.
“We live in a very polarized society, and we’re trying to give individuals the tools to participate in conversations that bridge political differences, bring people together and give people the opportunities to hear from all sorts of perspectives on all sorts … of different issues,” DeBoda said.
While Tufts students are very civically engaged on campus, the work does not end there: ACTION aims to educate younger generations about the importance of civic engagement.
According to Ashley Xie, ACTION’s director of community outreach, the main goal of the club is to promote youth involvement in civic life in the Boston area.
“ACTION was founded by students at Tufts who are passionate about civic education and advocacy,” Xie said. “Our main goal is to promote youth civic action and engagement in the greater Boston area. We do this by facilitating workshops and small-scale projects that encourage civic participation. We really try to uplift … and empower youth voices. … We do both on-campus and off-campus events to accomplish this.”
ACTION has run workshops for children of all ages at a multitude of schools, including in the Cambridge Public School system. By educating young students in the greater Boston area, ACTION aims to foster a generation of civic-minded leaders who are well equipped to tackle political issues.
Younger students’ eagerness to engage makes the work rewarding for Xie.
“They all have such great ideas that they all want to share, so it’s really inspiring for us to see … how excited they are,” Xie said.
Even though politics can be especially challenging right now, Xie is hopeful about a future led by Tufts students and the youth of today.
“Sometimes politics divide us,” Xie said. “But at the end of the day, we just want to see positive change moving forward and [see] the people around us succeed.”