Let's Get Ready to Register

As voter registration momentum builds leading up to the midterm election, we invite you to be a part of the movement. We encourage you to sign-up to receive a First we Register, Then we Vote tool-kit.  The kit includes materials to help promote and run a voter registration drive on your campus, including t-shirts, buttons, stickers, pens, and reminder to vote postcards. These free resources will help you promote a culture of voting on campus.  We’re also offering an array of free online resources to help with your drive. Leading up to the election we will be adding even more resources to splconcampus.org, updating our blog, and sending weekly emails with information and resources to keep your drive going.

As you anticipate the arrival of your kit, take a look at our website for a taste of what’s to come and to sign-up to participate in  Voter Registration Day September 25th, a national holiday that celebrates democracy through registering voters.

Throughout the campaign, we hope that you will share the triumphs of your voter registration efforts with us. We challenge each campus to get out and register at least 25 voters. In your kit, you will find 25 postcards, which we ask that you mail back in our prepaid envelope, so we can remind those you’ve registered to vote on Election Day.

And of course, please share what you’re up to via social media using #FirstweRegisterThenweVote and send us pictures to janelle.cronk@splcenter.org along the way.

Vote for those who can't

By Kate Chance

August 6th marks the 53rd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which granted millions of Americans the freedom to vote by overcoming the state and local legal barriers which prevented millions of African Americans from voting. 

While Americans may no longer face literacy tests and poll taxes to prevent them from voting, many barriers still exist inhibiting thousands of Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Some of these barriers are simpler to correct, such as a lack of understanding around voter registration or awareness of state laws. Other restrictions, which often target those of minority groups, include strict voter ID requirements, reducing the number of polling places and limiting the options for early voting opportunities.

And this election cycle presents its own opportunity to influence history. Four million Americans turned 18 years old, the legal voting age, since the previous election. This midterm election brings with it a new opportunity for the youth of America to truly influence and shape our nation to fit the values of the younger generations.

In my home state of Florida, laws prevent previously convicted felons from voting, regardless of their charges. Despite having paid their dues to society through hard time, these individuals are being prevented from exercising their rights guaranteed by the constitution. The majority of states have policies in place which restore voting rights of felons upon their release from prison, parole or probation, but ten states, including Florida, do not guarantee this right.

However, on Florida’s ballot this year is an opportunity to change this—if passed, Amendment 4 would automatically restore the right to vote with those holding prior felony convictions following parole, not including those convicted of charges relating to murder or sexual offenses.

This year, many young adults hear about the candidates and amendments on their state’s ballot and will think, “Why should I vote in this election?” “What does any of this have to do with me?”

I call on you to vote not for yourself, but to vote for others. Vote for your neighbors and friends who face barriers preventing them from casting their own ballot. Vote for the martyrs who lost their lives in hopes of one day being able to vote themselves. Vote for the coming generations who are not yet old enough to participate but deserve the same bright future as the rest of us. Vote for a policy that will benefit Americans who are unable to vote. And vote for those who live in and love this great nation, but face legal barriers to having their voices heard. 


Apathy is not an Option

By Connor Brantley 

Before we go to the polls this fall, it’s important to remember why it is so essential that we vote. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history, and the best way to ensure a bright future for our citizens is by voting and picking leaders who most closely reflect our values. Having witnessed the consequences of collective apathy in the 2016 election, young people, now more than ever, should recognize the significance of hitting the ballot boxes this fall.

Far too often candidates rely on low young voter turnout to get elected. What this means is that their platform and campaign efforts neglect the views and opinions of younger generations, and politicians gear their campaign promises towards those who statistically are more likely to vote. We can change that. People between the ages of 18-25 make up the largest percentage of the electorate. We have the power to shape this nation for the better, and it is as simple as voting.  

It is equally as important for you to vote as it is for you to encourage those around you to vote as well. The more college students vote, the more our government policies will reflect the values and beliefs of this generation. The shaping of our nation is a group effort, and it is essential that all college students play their part in securing a more promising tomorrow.

You can begin this effort by visiting our new website to learn more about how you can work with SPLC on Campus to get your fellow classmates registered to vote at your school this November. We’re very excited to be launching this new effort and hope you will join us.


Make Your Voice Heard

By Dasia Greer

Voting is both a privilege and a duty that every eligible citizen in this country should feel a responsibility to exercise. This responsibility is not only because of the thousands of individuals who diligently fought and lost their lives for all Americans to attain this fundamental right, but because voters play a vital role in the shaping of our nation. Voting allows Americans to effectively voice their opinions and to be heard by their government and fellow citizens.

One of the many excuses I’ve heard from individuals who don’t vote is that they feel their voting isn’t impactful and won’t make a difference in an election—a statement that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every single vote counts, and the number of Americans hitting the ballot boxes each election cycle is vital to upholding and cultivating the democracy of this nation. No citizen should ever feel that their voice does not matter, or that their opinion is not important.

We must all combat this detrimental ideology by voting, encouraging others to vote, and by simply letting those around us know that their opinions matter and that voting is one of the most powerful means of having their voice heard.

Meet Connor Brantley, one of our SPLC on Campus summer interns


My name is Connor Brantley. I am currently a junior at Auburn University majoring in Political Science and joined the SPLC on Campus team in June as an Intern. I’m very excited to be working with such a great group of people, spreading SPLC’s message on college campuses across the country and getting people energized for the November elections.

I was born and raised in Fort Worth, TX where my interest in social and political activism started at a young age. Especially in these times, I hope more young people will realize the importance of being engaged in our democracy and the impact they can have simply by voting and making their voice heard.

To make this a reality, we will be sending voter registration and other SPLC materials to over 2,100 campuses nationwide later this summer. We, as students, must take a stand in November against hate and discrimination. Keep an eye out for SPLC on your college campus this fall and please reach out to get involved.

It’s an incredible opportunity to work at such a great organization and I can’t wait to see what we are going to accomplish this year.

Introducing Dasia Greer, one of our SPLC on Campus summer interns


My name is Dasia Greer, and I am currently interning with SPLC on Campus. This program is one of many projects of the Southern Poverty Law Center seeking to teach tolerance, fight hate, and to seek justice. SPLC on Campus is a pivotal tool in raising awareness of the current social climate and injustices in our country through college campuses.

I am currently a junior at the University of Alabama, majoring in Public Relations. My experience at the Southern Poverty Law Center thus far has ignited my passion for becoming an agent in advocating for equity and justice in our society. With all the racial tension, hate and bigotry our society is currently facing, I feel that it is my duty as a citizen to be a voice for the voiceless.

I greatly anticipate further contributing to the overall mission and goals the SPLC was founded upon. Every day I find myself inspired by the many people who work so hard to ensure that the SPLC is a doing its part to promote and instill the ideals of equal justice and opportunity within our society.

SPLC on Campus @University of South Florida hosts book drive to help prop open the doorway to literacy

By Maria Ranoni

Literacy: although it may have a simple definition, it does not have a simple meaning. The meaning of literacy can’t be pinned down in a clever phrase or an example. It is only seen through the opportunities it presents or perhaps takes away. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education 32 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, a number that has remained stagnant in the last decade. That is 32 million missed opportunities to change a life for the better. The doorway to literacy, however, can be one book.

The unfortunate reality is that not every family has the disposable income necessary to buy a book. When many families are fighting to even put food on the table, the purchase of a book may be almost impossible. That is why SPLC on Campus @USF decided to host a book drive.

The area surrounding USF is very economically disadvantaged and we felt it necessary to help in this particular way. We set up a donation box and tried to get the word around campus. After collecting about 150 books, SPLC on Campus @USF dropped them off at the local King High School. The media specialist of the school, Barrett Zebos, was very grateful for the donation and thanked us profusely.

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This experience reminds me of why I joined SPLC in the first place just a few months ago. In these short months, I’ve experienced how to advocate for the marginalized members of my community in effective and helpful ways. According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” So, when this link is broken, the school-to-prison pipeline becomes less clogged and our society becomes more just.

Based on this experience, I look forward to the next project that SPLC on Campus @USF can start to help our community.

Maria Ranoni is a member of SPLC on Campus at the University of South Florida.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his Appreciation of Student Activists

By Janelle Cronk

‘Let nobody fool you, this movement is one of the most significant movements in the whole civil rights struggle. For you students, along with other students all over the nation, have become of age, and you are saying in substance that segregation is wrong and that you will no longer accept it and adjust to it . . . You have taken up the deep groans of the century. The students have taken the passionate longings of the ages and filtered them in their own souls and fashioned a creative protest. It is one of the glowing epics of the time and I predict that it will win—that it will have to win, because this demand is a basic American demand.’ 

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – ‘Keep Moving from This Mountain,’ Address at Spelman College on 10 April 1960

We have been living for 50 years without Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but not a moment has passed untouched by his lasting wisdom and propensity for peace and justice. Dr. King showed great appreciation and admiration for the college students that helped propel the Civil Rights Movement. He was also successful in tapping into the energy and fervor of youth. He told students at Howard University to, ‘Remember Who You Are!!’ and challenged Barratt Junior High School students to determine, ‘What is Your Life’s Blueprint.’  

In his speech, ‘The Modern Negro Activist,’ Dr. King celebrated students’ role in the civil rights struggle as it ‘spilled over the boundaries of the single issue of desegregation and encompassed questions of peace, civil liberties, capital punishment and others. It penetrated the ivy-covered walls of the traditional institutions as well as the glass and stainless-steel structures of the newly established colleges.’ It is through the intersectionality of causes that we can draw parallels to our own work today as SPLC on Campus clubs. As we work towards economic justice, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, and voting rights; we realize the profundity of King’s words that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ 

‘I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you—doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers – and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.’  

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking to Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967

The student activists before you embraced this challenge and participated in sit-in’s, walkouts, and Freedom Rides that garnered national attention, as a ‘revival of social awareness spread across campuses from Cambridge to California.’ 

Dr. King frequently spoke at colleges and universities and consistently expressed his gratitude and respect for educational institutions he visited. He expressed that ‘it is always a rich and rewarding experience to take a break from the day-to-day demands of our struggle for freedom and human dignity and discuss the issues involved in that struggle with college and university students.’ 

In expressing his enjoyment towards speaking with students, Dr. King reflected that ‘I happen to feel that dialogue is mighty good and something that we constantly need, and it’s always a great tragedy when a society seeks to live in monologue rather than in dialogue.’ 

So, as we reflect upon the profundity of this day in history, let us honor Dr. King by expanding the boundaries of dialogue with the hopes of fostering a more just world. Our team at SPLC on Campus encourages you to take inspiration from the words and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while finding strength in your creativity to address the issues of our day. 

SPLC on Campus students from Alabama visit detained immigrants in Georgia

Jasmine Boutdy sat outside the glass window, picked up the phone, and listened intently as the detained immigrant on the other side of the glass told his story.

The 23-year-old man had left his family behind in Bangladesh to escape political strife.

First, he traveled to Qatar, then to Brazil, then up through Central America and into Mexico. After crossing the U.S. border, he spent three days walking around before he finally went to police and asked for asylum.

AUM student 2.jpg

For all his trouble, he was sent to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where he lost his asylum case. After 15 long months, he remained in detention, with no end in sight.

The man told his story to Boutdy, one of five students at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama (AUM) who visited detained immigrants at Stewart late last year.

The trip was organized by SPLC on Campus, a program of the SPLC that helps college students raise awareness of social justice issues with their peers, and helps them become agents of change within their communities. The program has chapters at 73 colleges across the country.

Boutdy said the detained immigrant’s story especially tugged at her heartstrings because of her own family history.

“My parents were refugees from the Vietnam War, so growing up, I have a connection to these stories about the hardships of coming over as refugees, coming over with little to nothing, language barrier, separation from family,” said Boutdy, 21, a sociology major. “That was a different time, a different experience. So I just wanted to hear a more current perspective.”

The visit to the detention center was an eye-opener not only for Boutdy but also for the other members of SPLC on Campus at AUM who joined her on the trip, said Pia Knigge, PhD, an assistant professor of political science at AUM who is the chapter’s faculty adviser. The group plans to visit Stewart again in April.

“None of us expected what we witnessed, that is: the pronounced inhumanity and injustice embedded in the detention and treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers held at Stewart and unknown to the American public,” Knigge said. “The students have stayed in touch with the detainees they visited, and they are looking forward to the next visit.”

Since her visit to Stewart, Boutdy has been exchanging letters with the detainee she met there.

“If we’re only watching it from the news, if we’re only keeping it at a distance, it stays at a distance, it’s not a real issue that matters to us,” she said. “So now that I have a friend who is an asylum seeker in this space, it means a lot more, and it encourages me to speak up about it, to pursue action.”

Donna Sanford, another SPLC on Campus member at AUM who went on the trip with Boutdy, said she, too, was motivated to speak up about what she saw and heard there.

The Mexican immigrant she visited was detained after he was pulled over for a DUI. He told Sanford he had a cold, but did not receive medical treatment from the center.

“I call them inmates, because that’s how they treat them,” Sanford, 48, a secondary education major, said after her visit. “It was emotional. It’s a drop in the spirit.”

But, she said, “It makes you stronger and want to do something about it.”

The SPLC on Campus group at AUM has made immigration its theme for the year, and members want to get the word out about conditions at Stewart.

They recalled entering the center through gates lined with razor wire, being shepherded through a double-entry access system, and going through metal detectors. They proceeded through sliding bars that were opened, then shut behind them as they went into small rooms. There, they spoke to detainees through phones on either side of a glass partition.

Detainees told them they were forced to sleep in bunk beds in rooms with multiple men, and that it was difficult to sleep because other detainees stayed up late, talking. The students also recalled the hopelessness the men conveyed to them at being locked up without any recourse.

“Their conditions were horrible,” said Sam Duff, 23, vice president of the SPLC on Campus chapter at AUM. Duff spoke to a man from Gambia who had been detained for 18 months after coming to America to visit his family.

“When we conversed, I was just trying to keep his spirits up. He didn’t know what to do.”

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The SPLC is not identifying the detainees in this story to protect their confidentiality. A growing number of detainees at Stewart are represented by the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) – a project of the SPLC that enlists and trains volunteer lawyers to provide free legal representation to detained immigrants who are facing deportation proceedings in the Southeast.

The SPLC on Campus students have vowed to keep exposing conditions at Stewart, hoping to make a difference.

“It was an emotional trip,” Sanford said. “We were all kind of wowed when we came out of there. We’re going back. We’re not going to stop.”