October 6, 2014

Columbia Voting Week 2014, a series of talks dedicated to the discussion of voting and issues of democracy, kicks off tonight with a keynote address from David N. Dinkins, a professor in the practice of public affairs at SIPA who served as New York City’s 106th mayor from 1990 to 1993.

The weeklong series of events and panels will feature more than two dozen participants all told, including Governor Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island and Barham Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government of Iraq.

“As voter turnout declines all across our nation and the public becomes more disillusioned with government, nothing could be more important than the work our students have done to organize Voting Week at Columbia,” said Ester R. Fuchs, a professor of international and public affairs and political science and director of SIPA’s Urban and Social Policy concentration.

“A healthy democracy requires an informed and engaged citizenry,” she added. “Our students are taking up the challenge with a week of voter registration and political discourse. Voting Week has the potential to turn into a national student movement that reminds the public that they must make democracy work.”

Monday’s keynote address by Dinkins will be followed by a panel discussion on running for public office featuring New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic; New York City Council member Mark Levine; Jamaal Nelson, senior director for regional impact at Leadership for Educational Equity; and Lincoln Restler, senior policy advisor in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations.

Rhode Island’s Chafee will speak on Wednesday about the dilemmas of campaigning and governing in the United States. Professor David Johnston of Political Science will introduce Chafee, and Fuchs will moderate.

The week will end on an international note with remarks by Salih, who will discuss his perspectives on building a democracy in a multicultural society with Dipali Mukhopadhyay, assistant professor of international and public affairs.

Other panel topics throughout the week include political consulting and running elections and political engagement, advocacy and public policy.

The week of events from October 6 to 10 will not only highlight the importance of voting, but also draw attention to various challenges presented by democratic systems. Throughout the week there will be voter registration areas in Low Plaza and the fourth floor of the International Affairs Building staffed by students from SIPA and Columbia College.

At SIPA the event series is co-sponsored by the Urban and Social Policy concentration and the United States regional specialization.