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Census 2020 Q&A

GITA’s Ikaika Gleisberg discusses the count’s impact on MSU Denver and how students can play a key outreach role in their communities.

By Cory Phare

March 10, 2020

Cardinal Tomczyk and Ikaika Gleisberg talk about the census material at MSU Denver.Households across the U.S. will begin receiving 2020 census emails, phone calls and mailers on March 12, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Data gathered across the state will help determine federal funding for Colorado, along with likely increases in the House of Representatives and electoral votes.

This year, Roadrunners are playing a critical role in the census effort, with the University hiring 22 student workers to engage the community. To find out more, the Early Bird spoke with Ikaika Gleisberg, assistant professor with the University’s Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy and faculty coordinator for the outreach effort (pictured right).

Early Bird: Why does the country conduct a census?

Ikaika Gleisberg: It’s constitutionally mandated that we count the number of people living in the United States every 10 years, and the impact is huge: It helps the federal government know where to direct funds for infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges and other vital public services. It also helps ensure accurate representation in government.

EB: How do census counts affect MSU Denver?

IG: Marginalized populations are often at risk of being undercounted – and because we serve underrepresented folks here in Denver, it helps us ensure that our students and their communities are given a voice.

EB: How does this affect students?

IG: Census counts have a direct impact on how we provide holistic support services – such as SNAP, WIC, housing, access to medical infrastructure, child care and more.

EB: What will the student census workers be doing?

IG: They’ll be out at different community organization sites such as Denver Health and Denver Human Services, as well as doing outreach at various community events in Denver. They will also be canvassing on campus, tabling at campus events and conducting outreach in classrooms.  More important, students will be having face-to-face conversations with people to raise awareness about the importance of census completion and accurate representation.

EB: How does this work support MSU Denver’s educational mission?

IG: The census outreach effort is directly tied to community engagement. Students are exercising lifelong skills that they will continue to build upon. These skills include critical thinking, recognizing and being responsive to difference across experiences and cultures, and engaging with others in an empathic manner that allows for mutual understanding of diverse beliefs and values. We’ll also be working on an assessment to measure what students have gained from this experience.

EB: What does that involve?

IG: A lot of it involves meeting folks where they’re at with their understanding of the census and encouraging them to complete it if they haven’t already. We can help them open up and unpack ideas and notions they have about the census, then provide useful, updated information. The goal is to help answer any questions on the spot.

EB: What would you say to those who are skeptical of completing the census?

IG: Historically, there’s an understandable mistrust of the census, but today there are protections built in; information is kept confidential for 72 years, and protections are in place to prevent vulnerable communities – such as immigrants – from being impacted. There are serious consequences if a U.S. Census Bureau employee were to release any personal information. Additionally, survey data that includes personal identifying information will not be shared with any federal agency; in other words, the president, the FBI, Homeland Security and any other government agency will not obtain this information. The only information that is released is the statistical data compiled from census questions.

That’s why it’s critical for our students to do outreach within their communities. We’re focused just as much on building trust between and among communities as we are goal-oriented for a 100% completion rate.

EB: Any final takeaways?

IG: The big message here about the census is that it’s important, safe and easy to complete.

Topics: Census, Colorado, Community, Denver, Inclusion

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