Inaugural Projects

​Project #1:  Do Campus Student Organizations Cultivate Civic Skills and Identities?

Colleges and universities are increasingly called upon to bolster students’ civic and political engagement. Yet research in both political science and higher education suggest that current college-level civic education and political science coursework are incapable of fully addressing these concerns. Political scientists know that participation in associational life plays an important role in cultivating such engagement.  Yet we have largely overlooked the potential of civil society on our own campuses.  Given the prominent role of voluntary associations in political socialization, this work explores whether student organizations function as the equivalent of campus civil society, and whether they can supplement formal civic education efforts on campus. 

A single-campus pilot study, based on an internet survey of student organization presidents, found that traditional Greek organizations far outperformed other types of campus organizations in activities known to cultivate members’ civic identities, political skills, and political efficacy.  The finding that some student organizations excel at this task is certainly reassuring. Yet given the reputation of Greek organizations, this preliminary pattern is also disconcerting – because recent works by both sociologists and higher education scholars have also found that participation in Greek organizations is associated with higher levels of both sexism and symbolic racism.  

This project seeks to replicate this study across numerous college campuses, to determine whether the patterns identified are unique to a single campus, or whether they describe the state of campus civil society across higher education.   The findings will help advocates of campus civic engagement, drawing on scholarly work on associational life, to identify both problem-areas and best-practices for student groups.

Participants in this project will be asked to:

  • Assemble contact information for their campuses’ student organization presidents
  • Provide assistance coordinating approval of the questionnaire from their campus IRBs
  • Help to bolster the response rate on their campuses

Participants in this project will receive:

  • Access to raw data collected on each of their campuses
  • A summary report comparing their campuses to overall findings
  • A letter documenting participation in the project


To participate in this project, click the link below to join the Consortium.

>>Yes, I would like to join the Consortium
 

Project #2:  Does Political Incivility Affect Female Political Science Majors’ Political Ambitions?

The fact that women now constitute a majority of students on most college campuses highlights the importance of both recruiting and mentoring female political science majors.  To successfully serve all of our majors, the political science discipline should aspire to prepare our female undergraduate students for successful careers in politics and government.   

Yet this endeavor, which is already complicated by gendered socialization patterns, may be further undermined by political incivility.  Recent research suggests that current political environment, from the most local up through the national level, is increasingly characterized by unusually high levels of political incivility.  Negative and polarizing political discourse since 2008 has been characterized by name-calling, interruptions, and yelling – on the campaign trail, in meetings with constituents, and even on the floors of our legislatures.

While such behavior might suppress political ambition across the board, egregious examples of political incivility may have an especially chilling effect on women.  Research shows that women are still expected to be more polite than men.  Examples include the fact that women are expected to smile and cooperate more readily than men, to facilitate others’ agendas rather than to promote their own, and to refrain from interrupting others or from using intense adjectives and profane language.  Of course, not all women modify their behavior to meet these expectations, but those who fail to conform are described as less likeable and, as a result, are less capable of influencing others’ decisions.

If our female students observe successful politicians giving angry speeches, calling one another names, or engaging in other over-the-top rude behavior, they may find it hard to envision themselves as highly -visible, aggressive public figures.  The possibility that increasingly rude politics may squelch young women’s political ambitions should be explored.

This project will embed an experimental design within a cross-campus survey of political science majors.  Half of the respondents will be randomly assigned to observe a video clip of actors portraying politicians behaving rudely, while the remainder will observe the same actor-politicians engaging in a civil debate.  A post-test questionnaire will include measures of political ambition.  The results will allow us to note whether exposure to rude politicians suppresses women’s political ambitions, as well as whether their reaction is different from male political science majors.  The results will help us to understand whether we need to develop alternative strategies in order to recruit and mentor female students in the current political environment.
 
Participants in this project will be asked to:

Assemble contact information for majors in their departments
Provide assistance coordinating approval of the questionnaire from their campus IRBs
Send e-mails to students with an embedded link to the questionnaire
Help to bolster the response rate on their campuses

Participants in this project will receive:

  • Access to raw data collected on each of their campuses
  • A summary report comparing their campuses to overall findings
  • A letter documenting participation in the project

To participate in this project, click the link below to join the Consortium.

>>Yes, I would like to join the Consortium