Miami U. celebrates Citizenship and Democracy Week this week

A weeklong series of events on citizenship and democracy have been planned on Miami University’s Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses.

The annual Citizenship and Democracy Week is the college’s continued effort to bring civic awareness to the community, said Miami University political science professor John Forren.

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“The way we see it, as a public institution, we have an obligation to not only educate students but to engage the broader public,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to see their government in action, to see how politics work, to learn a little about civics, and to learn a little about American politics.”

There are a range of programs designed to engage the interest of people and “it’s meant to be fun, it’s meant to be interesting and it’s meant to be thought-provoking to get all of us to think about what it means to be a citizen in a democracy,” Forren said. “A democracy only works if citizens are active and engaged and work at it.”

The week will incorporate, among other things, voter registration drives at the Hamilton campus and at the Hannah House in Oxford, a civic volunteer fair in Hamilton, a faculty-led discussion asking if the Electoral College should be replaced in Hamilton and Middletown, and a forum on the lack of voter participation in Hamilton and Middletown.

In addition to forums and discussions, 12th District Court of Appeals will hold its Tuesday morning session on the campus, and Hamilton City Council will hold its regular meeting Wednesday evening.

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The marquee event will be Thursday’s naturalization ceremony in the quad on the Hamilton campus. This year an estimated 140 people — nearly twice as many as last year’s ceremony — will become American citizens.

Prior to that, a “Share Your Story” oral history project where residents are asked what this day means to them, and the ways people navigated their path to citizenship, said Sarah Woiteshek Pietzuch, director of the Miami Hamilton Center for Civic Engagement.

The week also provides students and the public ways to get connected to local government and show how it operates and what their role of participation can be, she said.

And these events help “take down some barriers” and remove the “mystery” of local government for the students and the public and show how things really work, said Woiteshek Pietzuch.

Research has shown there is “a clear majority of Ohioans” who have never been to a local government meeting or seen a court session, Forren said.

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