Student group promotes census participation with block party

Members of the university’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter are hosting a block party today to encourage participation in the 2010 Census among their college peers, a demographic that government officials argue is difficult to count.

The event is part of the chapter’s participation in PRSSA’s national Bateman Case Study Competition. According to the PRSSA Web site, the goal of the competition is to exercise students’ analytical skills and judgment, which are necessary for real life public relations problem solving.

Megan McGuire, a senior strategic communication major and member of the chapter’s competition team, said college students are the most difficult demographic to count because they are the least likely to participate in the census survey. Members of the team will distribute handouts and questionnaires about the census at the block party, she said.

James Riddlesperger, a political science professor, said college students do not participate in the census as much as people in other age groups because they are generally less attuned to government activities. He said this results in the government seeing fewer demographics on college students and the allocation of fewer federal dollars to college students.

One of the functions of the census is to help Congress allocate money to local governments, McGuire said. Census counts affect how much money is distributed to specific regions for areas like education, public services and emergency services. The count also determines the number of representatives each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives for the following 10 years.

McGuire said the event, which will take place in front of the library from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be visited by SuperFrog and the Chick-fil-A cow, who will bring coupons. The event will also include raffles, prizes and food.

Students from other cities or states who participate in the census but live in Fort Worth to attend the university count as part of the Fort Worth population and cannot be counted as part of their parents’ household, McGuire said.

According to the census Web site, census administrators from the U.S. Census Bureau work with housing staff on college campuses to distribute and collect the survey forms.

David Cooper, associate director of residential living for Housing and Residence Life, said his office will try to make the process of filling out the census forms as easy as possible for students. Cooper said he was scheduled to meet with census representatives to plan a census information session on campus, but the meeting did not take place because of the university snow days Feb. 11 and Feb. 12.

Kimberly Dena, a junior strategic communication major and member of the competition team, said she hopes students will become more aware of the census after the event.

“We want students to understand what (the census) is,” Dena said. “Secondly, how to participate, and then third, we want them to actually commit to being counted.”

McGuire said planning and promotional initiatives prior to the event included a Facebook fan page, YouTube video and Twitter account in addition to the team’s event Web site. The number of people who join the pages and see the video will help determine the chapter’s success in the competition.

Strategic communication professor Amiso George said the campaign should be both informational and persuasive.

“Everything depends on our numbers,” George said. “So it is really, really important that we educate our students to recognize the importance of participating.”

George, who taught the campaign as a class and is the group’s faculty adviser, said the students working on the campaign planned and executed everything themselves.

“I teach them what they are supposed to do and guide them, but they actually do all the work,” George said.

The top three teams from across the country will be selected April 10-11. Final judging for the top three teams will take place May 13-14 in Washington, D.C..

U.S. Census 2010

-10-question survey mailed to U.S. residences

-Allocates money to local governments to be used in the next 10 years

-Determines the number of representatives each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives

-Utilizes information concerning race in order to evaluate compliance with anti-discrimination provisions

-Uses age information to predetermine the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare benefits

-Does not ask information concerning legal status or Social Security numbers

Source: U.S. Census Bureau