As part of the Campus Election Engagement Project, UCA, alongside more than 100 other colleges and universities, is taking part in the lecture series Citizenship Under Siege.
The program is a nation-wide three-part webinar on the cost and status of modern citizenship in the United Status. The second installment of the webinar series, screened by the Service-Learning Program in the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center Oct. 27, grappled with income inequality and its effects on the cost of citizenship.
“The [webinars are]offered as part of the Citizenship Under Siege Webinar Series, a program of the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the Democracy Commitment,” Service-Learning Program Coordinator Lesley Graybeal said. “The webinar screening is open to the campus and community. Students who cannot attend but who would like to watch the webinar can register themselves to listen in from home or get the recording afterwards.”
Interim National Manager of the Democracy Commitment Verdis Robinson and Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Director of Civic Learning and Democracy Initiatives of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, presented the second webinar. Four academics led the discussion over modern disenfranchisement as a result of restrictive voting legislation in the United States.
Jill Schennum, chair of the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Economics at the County College of Morris, provided an American history of income inequality as linked to race and voter disenfranchisement.
“We have seen since 2010 an attack on voter rights, unprecedented since the post-Reconstruction backlash in the late 19th century,” Schennum said. “Large swaths of working class citizens and citizens of color have been disenfranchised. This has been legitimized with false claims of widespread voter fraud. In the U.S., higher income citizens are more likely to vote than lower income citizens, [a proportion]higher than an in any other developed country…Further limiting voters exacerbates the disenfranchisement of the working class and links [state-imposed voting limitations] inexplicably and quite intentionally with race.”
Steve Davis, history professor at Lone Star College, Fagan Forhan, dean of Mount Wachusett Community College, and Seth Howard, assistant director of Lone Star College’s Center for Civic Engagement, described how students can promote the enfranchisement of marginalized peoples through exploration of the world, co-curricular engagement and deliberate dialogues.
“We believe it is important for UCA students to have opportunities to learn about social issues that affect our nation and to learn how to be active, engaged citizens now and after they graduate,” Graybeal said.
At many points throughout the webinar, the speakers paused for student thoughts and questions. UCA students were able to share their opinions on a live chat with students and teachers from all over the United States.
The first webinar in the Citizenship Under Siege series took place on Oct. 17 and dealt with the way the humanities can inspire dialogues and dispel fractious differences. The third and final webinar, titled “I Want My Country Back: Immigration, Race, and Citizenship,” will take place on Nov. 3 2016.