COLLEGE PARK – College students love a good debate, and one quickly brewed Friday when students at the University of Maryland College Park campus heard that the Census Bureau would be on campus this week urging them to fill out their forms.
“I just thought it was a whole bunch of questions and I was, like, forget it,” said Jomarie Lewis, 22, a Jamaican student at the College Park campus.
Lewis, with friends at the student union Friday, went on about the questions being invasive, too numerous, and finally threatened to “toss it in the trash.”
That’s exactly what the Census Bureau does not want as it gears up to enumerate college students on campuses nationwide. The bureau sent letters to all college and university presidents in mid-March, asking them to prepare for the count. The college student enumeration will last all week.
“We will go to all of the dorms that are owned by or rented by (colleges and universities),” said Juanita Britton, a spokeswoman from the regional Census office in Philadelphia.
Bureau officials will meet with a designated contact person, who will deliver forms to students, then collect the completed forms, seal them in an envelope and mail them to the Census. In some cases, enumerators will actually go to dorms and collect information from students, said Britton.
Campus administrators across the state said they are doing what they can to quell student misgivings.
“We will have some mandatory hall meetings,” said Carol Williamson, Salisbury State University vice president for student affairs. Resident dorm assistants will distribute and collect the forms from students.
“We used electronic mail to let (off-campus) students know the Census will be coming to their rental properties,” Williamson said.
The University of Maryland has tried to get coverage of the census in the campus newspaper, said a spokesman. Even community colleges have launched campaigns reminding students to complete and mail their forms.
Despite the hoopla, some students are holding steadfast to their skepticism about the forms.
“What time do you shower? Do you live with your grandma?” said Ayo Oluokun, 20, a College Park sophomore mocking the questions on the census. “The government is always trying to get in our business.”
Eating a hamburger and catsup-dipped fries in the student union, Oluokun went on about government conspiracies, and how he thought the census might facilitate them. Then his friend chimed in.
“I don’t really have a problem with it,” said freshman Jermaine Davis, 18, shaking his head at Oluokun’s skepticism. “It only takes 10 minutes.”
Others said they did not think the census would help them.
“I’m Native American, and I feel like my culture is so small that it (the census) really wouldn’t affect it,” said Thomas Allen, 19, a sophomore.
Jermain Jones, an African-American freshman, said he doubts the census would help the economy.
“These are questions they (the Census) could answer if they just visited the neighborhoods where we live more often … then they would have a better idea of what we need,” he said.
But not all students were stirred to passion by the census debate. They wrinkled their brows and looked to the sky in an apparent search for answers when asked about the forms. With spring in the air and the semester set to end in a matter of weeks, it just wasn’t a priority.
“I haven’t really thought much about it,” said Lena Fanara, 18, from West Hyattsville. “But I guess it’s good the government is taking an interest in us,” she said.
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