The optics of this are causing some to wonder if it’s appropriate.

Inside Higher Ed reports.

Civic Engagement or Get Out the Vote?

A newly announced effort to promote students’ civic engagement largely through a campaign to spur colleges to get them to register to vote seems like a no-brainer for higher ed leaders to endorse, given how campus officials often make the case that going to college builds citizenship.

But some higher education groups are staying on the sidelines of the All In Campus Democracy Challenge — which was unveiled Thursday by Civic Nation, a nonprofit group — because of concerns about the effort’s perceived lack of independence from the Obama administration in the run-up to a major national election. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which 20 years ago helped found a campus voter registration initiative known as Your Vote Your Voice, opted not to endorse the All In Challenge because it seemed to be linked to a fledgling White House civic engagement summit, which made it appear partisan. More young people tend to vote Democratic than Republican.

“It was hard to know where one ended and the other began,” said David L. Warren, president of the private college association. “The issue of the White House and Civic Nation, either separately or together, moving in this direction struck me as an entangling perception at best that I did not want.”

The nonprofit organizations and campus groups involved in the All In challenge say the campaign has been misunderstood, and that it is exactly what it appears to be: a nonpartisan effort to recognize colleges that measure and improve their students’ informed participation in the democratic process, for the long term.

“Preparing graduates for their public lives as citizens, members of communities and professionals in society has historically been a responsibility of higher education,” said Zaneeta E. Daver, director of the All In challenge. “What we hope to achieve with the All In challenge is a refocusing on this vital part of higher education’s mission.”