Participation in Upcoming Election

October 21, 2004

To the Columbia Community:

I would like to add my voice to those urging participation in the upcoming Nov. 2 election. Some of our students, voting for the first time on Election Day, will mark an important milestone in their lifetime commitment to civic engagement. We especially congratulate them.

Columbia is and should be proud of the many ways in which members of our community have served to enhance the electoral process -- from informing the public debate to helping register voters to providing critical information resources.

I would like to single out for recognition some of the many members of our community whose perspectives and expertise have lent focus and deepened the public discourse. Arthur Levine, President of Teachers College, has been a vocal advocate for making education reform a high priority on both presidential candidates' platforms. Columbia University Medical Center Dean Gerry Fischbach is recognized as a national authority and spokesman on stem cell research policy and has addressed the issues in many fora. Glenn Hubbard, Dean of the Business School, is a frequent contributor to tax, tort reform, and monetary policy discussions. And Dean of the Journalism School Nick Lemann reports on Frontline's "The Choice 2004," part of PBS's election coverage, as well as writes in-depth pieces for The New Yorker magazine. These are just a few instances in which our colleagues have served as national and international commentators on issues ranging from the federal deficit to homeland security proposals.

This fall the University itself also is serving as a center for informed discussion on key issues confronting voters. The Earth Institute, for instance, is hosting "Critical Lectures in American Foreign Policy," convening distinguished scholars from throughout the United States to discuss foreign affairs, climate change, and economic priorities for the next administration. The School of International and Public Affairs is exploring the impact of the election on long-term national security policy. Columbia's student political unions are bringing noted speakers to campus, organizing get-out-the-vote drives, and debate-watch parties. WATCH, a School of the Arts student group, is hosting discussions and literary readings to raise awareness of election issues, and now is training members to be election monitors. Many students are involved in programs to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Law School students have launched IMPACT 2004, a national voter protection effort now under way in 13 states across the nation.

We also should recognize the research being conducted on campus that makes tremendous resources available to the general public during the campaign process. Columbia Journalism Review's "Campaign Desk" website offers a daily report card for journalists and others following the campaign trail that monitors news reporting, political commentary, and analysis. A recent survey completed by the Mailman School of Public Health's National Center for Disaster Preparedness confirmed that the U.S. public lacks confidence in our government's ability to protect against a terror attack, adding to the national dialogue on this important campaign topic.

Doctoral candidates in political science from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are challenging assumptions and conventional wisdom about long-term political theories on voter turnout and party polarization. Political science faculty will be working with major media outlets on election night to conduct exit poll data analysis and are designing schematic cost-benefit models to confirm the rationale for voting. The Barnard Center for Research on Women is examining the role of young women in the election and the issues the candidates must address to reach this critical voting bloc.

As we begin our 251st year, let me encourage Columbians to continue their active participation in the democratic process and to cast a vote next month for local, state, and federal leadership. In doing so, we carry on the tradition of Columbia's civic involvement that extends back to our earliest roots in America.

Best wishes,

Lee C. Bollinger
October 21, 2004