The College at Florham is not what one would call very politically charged or a campus bustling with activism. However, with the presidential election just weeks away, and with campaigns in full swing, campuses across the country are beginning initiatives to encourage students to register to vote and to inform young voters.
FDU is no different.
According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 18 to 21 year olds make up 21 percent of the voting population, a demographic that remains “largely uncultivated.” In fact, New Jersey itself has 8.8 percent of the new, eligible voters this year, also according to CIRCLE.
This semester, in preparation for the upcoming election, and in an effort to cultivate this important demographic, the Office of Campus Life is facilitating an ongoing initiative to register voters on campus. The initiative is spearheaded by Matt Krayton, the new Campus Life coordinator.
Krayton, an FDU alumnus, was offered this new position after working with Alumni Relations at the Metropolitan Campus.
“I felt a certain affinity for this campus,” he said. “I had a lot of campus pride. I tried to come back here and connect alumni with different engagement causes.
“My philosophy has always been that as a university, you’re a community, and you’re a part of that community for life … so whether you’re a freshman just starting out your college career, or whether you’re 50 years out of school, it doesn’t matter; you’re still a part of the FDU community.”
As a part of that philosophy, Krayton is committed to bringing FDU to closer to the neighboring communities of Florham Park, Madison and Morristown.
“My job is to connect the student body with the surrounding community,” he said.
However, Krayton’s focus of civic engagement is presently on encouraging students to vote.
“The voter registration drive was something that we started last year … that’s something that, again, was a part of my efforts to bring alumni into the fold. The idea was to bring alumni on campus, train them to register voters, and then help train the students to register voters,” he said.
“We also want to make sure that the students are informed about the election … registered or not, students [often] feel they can’t go into a poll booth and make an informed decision.”
Krayton is also informing students about their voting rights, such as an out-of-state student’s right to vote in the precinct that his or her university is in, which in the case of FDU students on Nov. 6, will be in Florham Park’s sixth precinct at Ridgedale Middle School.
“A lot of students think that they have to go home to vote, but New Jersey law gives students the right to vote where they live at school, a fact that we’re trying to inform students about,” he said. “You are here for four years, you have a vested interest in what goes on in your community, you have vested interest on a congressional level and on a residential level.”
Campus Life is just one body supporting this cause. The newly inducted FDU student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is also using the voter registration initiative to bring on-campus groups together.
The NAACP fights for the right of all people, even though there’s a misconception among people that it’s just for black people, said the chapter’s vice president, senior Brittany Coleman.
“We’re on this campus to do community service, to help inform about a lot of issues that people may not know a lot of information about … [such as] about voter registration, about judicial areas, about education, about health,” said Coleman. “What we’re trying to do is set up a bunch of programs that will help our FDU community, and as well have FDU reach out within the community.
“The NAACP’s campaign this year is ‘This Is My Vote,’ and nationally they are asking all the youth and collegiate chapters to do an event for National Voter Registration Day,” said Coleman.
The event was scheduled for Tuesday, and while the NAACP chapter primarily sponsored it, it was co-sponsored by the Office of Campus Life.
Several other organizations also were scheduled to assist at the event, including Phi Sigma Sigma, Zeta Beta Tau, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Delta Phi Epsilon, Phi Sigma Kappa, the Student Government Association and Straight and Gay Alliance.
“We [the NAACP] decided as an e-board that a drive encompassing Greek life, [the Office of] Campus Life … would be better for the FDU community, as well as for reaching out to different people,” Coleman said.