Dear Lawrence Community,

2020 brings two important moments in civic life: elections at the national, state, and local level, and the completion of the 2020 Census. I want to share information about both of these critical exercises and to ask all members of our community to participate in these important civic events. As we approach this next year we need to commit ourselves to upholding our value of civil discourse and debate as we seek understanding. We also need to respect the free expression of political views by all members of our community.

The 2020 Election Cycle

The 2020 election cycle is in full swing. Iowa holds caucuses today, and the New Hampshire primary is not far behind. They will be followed by dozens of states across the nation in the coming weeks and months. Wisconsin’s presidential primary is scheduled for Tuesday, April 7. Our home state is set to be a battleground in this year’s presidential election. Several important state and local offices are also up for election on April 7, including the mayor of Appleton and a state supreme court justice. These two positions have direct impact on our daily lives here in Appleton. The primary for these state and local races is on February 18. One of the central responsibilities of being a citizen of this country is participation in the democratic process. I encourage all Lawrentians who are eligible to exercise their constitutional right to vote in these important upcoming elections. To be eligible to vote in Wisconsin, you must be at least 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen, and have lived in Appleton for at least 10 consecutive days.

As was the case in previous national election cycles, many politicians or their representatives may visit the Fox Cities, including Lawrence’s campus as they seek to share their message with voters. Lawrence is committed to the free expression of political views by members of our community; the university values civil discourse and debate as an essential underpinning of a liberal arts education. We must also ensure that any political activity on campus complies with state and federal law; the University’s policy governing campus involvement in electoral activity reflects this commitment. Please review this policy and understand our procedures, especially if you belong to an organization or department that is interested in hosting a campaign event on campus. The opportunity to engage with candidates for office provides all Lawrentians with a unique educational experience. I hope to see such opportunities available to our community in the coming months.

The Census

This year offers us the opportunity to exercise another important civic duty: the completion of the 2020 Census on April 1. The census is conducted every 10 years. It counts everyone who currently lives in the United States, regardless of citizenship status. Its results are the basis for congressional representation and help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funds is distributed each year to support vital programs in states and communities across the nation. These funds shape our local health care, housing, education, transportation, employment, and public policy. The better our census completion rate, the more funding our community is eligible to receive.

Lawrence is partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to support the census, and a campus committee is currently working to get the word out about this important initiative. Please stay tuned in the coming week for more information about the voter registration process and the 2020 Census to be shared via email, in the LU Insider, or through other communication channels.

We must engage compassionately with community members during this election season. We live in a truly polarized moment for our nation. It is difficult to find objective news sources; at times it can even be hard to converse respectfully with friends, family, and colleagues.  In this environment, we must uphold the tenets of our community: respect for others; openness to different, challenging ideas; and reliance on research and non-partisan sources to help determine our decision.

I look forward to connecting with our campus, local, and national communities in the coming year as we engage in the democratic process and help to set the course for our collective future.