by, C. Garrett Keidel, Senior Writer
Prior to this year’s Presidential Election, Manhattan College student-athletes achieved the goal of 100 percent voter registration status across all teams. The initiative to achieve 100 percent registration followed the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) passing legislation to cancel all countable athletics-related activities on election day.
According to a NCAA SAAC report from August 2020, “This proposal is designed to provide more opportunities for student-athletes to participate in civic engagement. By requiring a day off from countable athletically related activities each year, student-athletes will have focused time to civically engage, including time to vote in presidential and congressional, state and local elections.”
As shown by the data, student-athletes at the college found the initiative to be important enough to get registered and to encourage teammates to participate as well.
“Each team has a SAAC representative and by telling our SAAC representatives it really got the information out quickly and effectively,” said Emma Kindblom, president of Manhattan SAAC.
“I was definitely proud of everyone collectively as a whole,” said Jenna Dingler, head coach of the women’s lacrosse team. “I think this is something really important, especially at the age of being in college. And I think that I had a big sense of pride in my program for everyone being registered.”
The athletic department as a whole was extremely supportive of the initiative. Coaches and athletes worked together to shed a positive light on both the department and larger school community by showing an interest in an important civic activity like voter registration.
“When you are working within your individual teams, it’s easy to work together in that way, since you are always doing that anyway,” said Erin Prevo, vice president of Manhattan SAAC.
Additionally, the athletes’ efforts were intended to extend beyond the scope of campus as a reminder to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference about how Jaspers strive to set a positive example for other schools.
“The other thing is we’re also extremely competitive within our conference,” Kindbloom said. “I don’t remember who it was, I think Iona, who was the first team in the conference to get it done. And we thought, all right, they did it, we should do it. We should be next guys. Let’s go.”
Coaches and athletes viewed this friendly registration competition as a good opportunity to connect with the greater Manhattan community and other channels on campus who actively promoted the importance of voter registration.
“You know, when I walked around campus, I would always see tables asking if you’re registered to vote,” said Lora Egbert, head coach of women’s volleyball. “So I don’t think it was just student-athletes, I do think it was the entire campus that really wanted people to be educated, and to exercise their right to vote.”
“I think we’re seen as kind of like separated from a large part of the Manhattan College community when we’re not, and this is a way that brings us all together,” said Prevo. “This is a huge thing that everyone should be a part of. And I think it brings out the similarities between all Manhattan College students and it helps us stand out within the NCAA.”
In the future, the college’s athletic department hopes to continue this initiative. Given the success rate of this initiative for the 2020 Presidential Election, there is no reason to believe that student-athletes will stop using their voices for positive change, whether for politics or for other important societal topics.
“I think we’re actually going to see [the initiative] not only in presidential years that are the biggest years for people to vote, but I think we’ll actually start seeing it on a state level as well,” Egbert said. “And local voting, I think that kind of brought awareness to all of us on how important the local voting piece is, as well as the presidential elections.”
Although the current crop of Manhattan athletes will no longer be on campus by the time the 2024 Presidential Election rolls around, they hope to leave a legacy that inspires future generations of Jaspers to make a difference in the community as well.
“I would like…each student-athlete to take registration and voting and just run with it for the rest of their lives,” Prevo said. “I would like to see this every four years where the NCAA takes it upon themselves, and Manhattan College takes initiative and wants every one of their student athletes to vote and be registered.”