Census bus rolls onto campus to spread awareness among students

Census officials are making a push for USC students to participate in the upcoming 2010 census, but students still don’t know how or why they should get involved with it.

Stand up and be counted · The census bus came to Trousdale Parkway on Friday to educate students about the census and why it is important that they participate. - Scott Fairbanks | Daily Trojan

The U.S. Census Bureau launched the 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour in early January by sending 13 vehicles across the United States to educate residents about the census and explain why their participation is important.

“The populace in general is not aware, or could be made more aware,” said Bernard Pendergrass, a media specialist at the Los Angeles Regional Census Center. “We’re trying to spread the word everywhere we go.”

Over the last 10 years, Los Angeles has lost more than $200 million of federal funding because an estimated 78,000 L.A. residents went uncounted after not filling out the 2000 census, according to the Los Angeles City Census Office.

“This census determines how many seats in Congress each state is allocated, how federal money is allocated,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “It’s a once-a-decade chance to take a snapshot of who we are.”

To help spread the word, the census bus visited USC on Friday to educate students about the census and to shatter the misconception that they will be counted at home.

Census officials specifically targeted USC because of the high international student population, which generally does not participate in the census, said Kerstyn Olson, deputy director of the Unruh Institute, which sponsored the census bus visit.

Many international students do not know that they can participate in the census.

“I really did not know,” said Beroze DuBash, a sophomore majoring in communication and an international student. “I thought it was an American thing.”

Olsen and census officials said it is important for every student to participate in the census to help bring resources to the city and school.

Some students said the school or census officials should take a more proactive approach in informing students.

“They should send out an e-mail,” said Sahil Khandwala, an international student and a sophomore majoring in business administration, “because no one knows about it.”

Census officials said this lack of awareness is precisely what they’re trying to combat.

“Some people are unaware, and that’s why we’re doing everything we can so when they get it in the mail, they know what it is and what it’s used for,” said Jazmin Ortega, media specialist at the Los Angeles City Census Office.

Students in general have also been historically underrepresented. Census data  provides the government information about the population that can affect the allocation of money, including funding given to schools and universities.

“People don’t realize that the minute you get up every day from the minute you go to bed every day is impacting the census,” said Sandra Alvarado, Census Bureau media specialist. “You took a shower, and, at one point, someone said they needed water here,” said Alvarado, and that is just one example of how the census can impact everyday life.

Olson said she thought the census bus had a good turnout, but many students said they did not see it or only stopped by for the free tote bags and water bottles. Many students remain unaware of the need to participate in the census.

“What’s the point of knowing or not knowing?” asked Raghu Nallamothhu, a graduate student studying computer science from India who had never heard of the census before visiting the bus on campus for free census gear.

The census bus might return to campus later, on a day when more students are on campus, Olson said.

In April, the Census Bureau mails census forms and envelopes to citizens. Students can participate in the census by filling out these 10-question forms.

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