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Front of Howard Baker Center - 10.25-16 - Photo by Kellie Crye Ward

UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy will host one of two simultaneous statewide Tennessee Campus Civic Summits on Friday, March 29. The two events—the second will take place at Vanderbilt University in Nashville—will bring together Tennessee’s higher education institutions to learn and share best practices for encouraging civic engagement among their students.

The event, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., is open to the public. The Baker Center is covering the registration costs for those attending the Knoxville event, which includes breakfast, lunch, and event materials.

The summit will include workshops and sessions with students, faculty, and legislators and will offer clear and effective ways to encourage civic and electoral participation on Tennessee’s college campuses. Experts on student voting, campus organizing, and civic education will answer questions and provide guidance on campus voting efforts.

The US Higher Education Act requires that institutions of higher learning facilitate voter registration on their campuses but does not provide instruction on how to fulfill the mandate. Misunderstandings and myths about student voting can often cause confusion and limit student access to the polls.

That is why it’s important to develop effective strategies for reaching students and reinforcing the importance of voter participation, said Katie Cahill, associate director of the Baker Center.

She pointed to a quote from the late Senator Howard H. Baker Jr., who wrote in 1980, “Something dangerous has happened when mainstream Americans have decided to stay home from politics. A kind of disease has spread through the system and it’s time that we cure it.”

“This summit represents an important opportunity for the state’s institutions of higher education to come together to plan for civic education and engagement on their campuses,” Cahill said. “We think that one cure for voter apathy is to affirm the value of participation and public service in our educational mission.”

This will be the second year the Baker Center has hosted the summit, which is co-hosted by East Tennessee State University, the Scholars Strategy Network, and Vanderbilt University. Other members of the planning committee include the Campus Vote Project, UT Chattanooga, Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University, Students Learn Students Vote, Tennessee Civic Campus, and Tennessee State University.

Katie Cahill (865-974-8681,
Megan Boehnke (865-974-3242,