UM-Dearborn’s Turn-Up Turnout (TUT), gun violence, and the importance of student civic participation
Updated: Apr 29
Sasha K. Kindred – Staff Writer - News
The image above was originally taken by Rob Crandall and was retrieved from Shuttershock.com.
For a while now, it has been largely documented that young Americans – despite being quite a sizable and influential voting block – rarely attend the polls on Election Day or complete absentee ballots, which significantly influences election outcomes and policy decisions. With that being said, recent nationwide events such as the federal Roe v. Wade overturn, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of gun violence, and other issues concerning the role of governmental response to declining community health have encouraged more young people to become involved with the laws and policies that influence how they live their daily lives.
The reality of threats to public safety and the importance of community health hit home for many UM-Dearborn students last week. This past Thursday, all students received an email from the Department of Public Safety notifying them to avoid the streets of Michigan Avenue, Military, and Monroe on account of an active shooting. In a Hampton Inn near a strip mall located in downtown Dearborn, a hotel clerk was shot and killed. According to Hannah Mackay, Mark Hicks, and Charles E. Ramirez of The Detroit News, the clerk was killed by a customer after an incident involving room payment escalated. Shortly after being notified, many students expressed their fear, concerns, and outrage over the spiraling issue of gun violence and where the future of the country is headed.
Although many students want their voices to be heard and to feel like they are making a difference, just as many do not know where to start. In an effort to provide more students with the tools and resources they need to participate in democracy, the non-profit organization Turn-Up-Turnout was founded in 2017. Turn-Up-Turnout, or “TUT,” is a student-led organization unique to the University of Michigan that aims to get more college students registered to vote and well-informed about political issues.
Coincidentally–during the same evening of the Hampton Inn shooting–TUT Research Assistant Samuel Caruso hosted a presentation in the UC Kochoff Hall discussing the politics and history of gun violence. When asked to summarize his presentation, Caruso stated that his presentation would “address gun violence prevention, with an emphasis on current gun violence statistics and the different forms of gun legislation on local, state, and national levels,” and that the main objective of this presentation would be to “inform students about how their votes can directly lead to different policy solutions.”
Aside from getting students registered, TUT hosts presentations like these each month to encourage more students to vote purposefully–that is, to vote with intention as opposed to voting without giving their decisions much thought. Caruso argues that focusing on voter education–rather than simply raising voter registration rates–is integral toward truly making a difference in student civic engagement.
“I feel like so many people just want to get young people registered to vote–which is great–but when it comes to getting students to actually show up during election days, it is difficult,” Caruso stated at a TUT check-in meeting on a Saturday afternoon. “Voter education is much more important than simply getting students registered because when voting becomes personal, it makes students more inclined to go out there and vote.”
And Caruso’s input is not far from the truth in the slightest. According to a research study from the Civic Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), around six million Americans (ages 18-29) did not vote in 2016 despite being registered.
To say that Turn-Up-Turnout has made a difference in civic interest among University of Michigan students by prioritizing voter education would be an understatement. According to a report from the Institute of Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University, voter turnout among University of Michigan students rose to 78% during the 2020 election—approximately 18 percentage points higher than turnout in 2016.
Founder of Turn-Up-Turnout, Dr. Edie Goldenberg, hopes that continued efforts to get students registered and to educate them about politics will help future Michigan student turnout surpass the 2020 election percentages. But in order for this to happen, student involvement is crucial.
“This was an all-campus effort,” Dr. Goldenberg says. “Our student volunteers worked very hard. I am grateful for the faculty, staff and university leaders who pulled together to help students get the information they needed in order to vote and have their voices heard.”