Washburn looks to spark conversations and learning concerning citizenship and suffrage

Published: Jan. 13, 2020 at 12:49 PM CST
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This spring, Washburn students, faculty and staff will participate in a series of coordinated events that examine the concepts of citizenship and suffrage across the world and throughout history in order to foster civic engagement, as well as awareness of and empathy for disenfranchised and oppressed populations.

The majority of events are free and open to the public.

Washburn University is introducing a new, diversity-related topic to engage the Washburn community in a conversation and collective learning experience on timely subjects every spring semester.

Known as WUmester, the topic is explored through curriculum and special events.

The 2020 citizenship and suffrage theme is inspired by the election year in the United States.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote, as well as the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment that extended voting rights to white women.

Further, it is a census year when the U.S. Constitution requires every resident of the nation to be counted for the purposes of allocating representation in U.S. House of Representatives and billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities.

“Citizenship is a status that carries with it both rights and duties. It is not a static concept, but has instead varied widely throughout history and across regions,” said Dr. Kelly Erby, assistant dean of the Washburn University College of Arts and Sciences, associate professor of history and chair of the WUmester committee.

“What are the rights of citizenship? In the United States, we often think of suffrage—the right to vote—as a primary right and privilege of citizenship. But it was not always necessary to be a citizen to vote in this country, and many citizens were long disenfranchised because of their race, sex, or poverty, among other reasons. Voter suppression remains a problem today. But in many other nations in the world, citizenship does not entail voting rights at all. In thinking about citizenship, some emphasize the duties that citizenship should demand, duties that may include political participation, environmental stewardship, military or government service, or social and political activism. Other countries, however, have very different concepts of what citizenship entails.”

WUmester 2020 will examine who belongs to this and other nations, who has historically belonged, and what belonging—and not belonging—means.

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