COVID-19 is Changing On-Campus Efforts to Promote the 2020 Census


ASUU and the Hinckley Institute are collaborating to encourage all students to fill out the census. (Courtesy of the Hinckley Institute)

By Ivana Martinez and Joseph Moss


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Census Bureau has made modifications to their counting efforts. The changes come as the coronavirus has dramatically changed social and political life in the United States.

The Census Bureau released a statement about their modification efforts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which said, “The U.S. Census Bureau is monitoring coronavirus (COVID-19) carefully, and the health, safety and well-being of the public and our staff is our top priority.”

“The 2020 Census is underway and the most important thing you can do is respond online, by phone or by mail when you receive your invitation. Responding now will minimize the need for the Census Bureau to send census takers out into communities to follow up,” said the Census Bureau alongside the other statement.

Universities across the nation, including the University of Utah, have closed dormitories for most students, causing students to relocate for the rest of the semester. In an effort to count students who live on campus during the school year, the census encourages students to fill the form online. 

The Census Bureau said in their March 11 press release that they have set up a COVID-19 Internal Task Force to monitor the situation. Historically, the census has missed members of “hard to reach” communities, such as people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, individuals who distrust the government, children under the age of five, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ people.

However, the Bureau stated in their press release that, “it has never been easier to respond on your own [census], whether online, over the phone or by mail — all without having to meet a census taker.”

According to the Bureau’s March 15 press release students should fill out the census according to where their home should have been on April 1. This is part of an effort to count college students who have been displaced and returned home for the remainder of the semester.

In another press release on March 28, the Bureau announced all field operations will be suspended until April 15, 2020 to protect workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Virginia Hyer of the Public Information Office from the U.S. Census Bureau said in a video, “If you normally live in a dorm or college-owned Greek housing, don’t worry — your college is already working with us to count you. That means you don’t need to do anything and you’re off the hook.”

Morgan Lyon Cotti, associate director of the Hinckley Institute, was working with ASUU on the census efforts on campus. In an email, she said, “Much of census outreach the University of Utah had planned has now been changed, but we are still working to promote the census through class outreach, digital advertising, social media and any other resources at our disposal.”

The Daily Utah Chronicle reached out to ASUU representatives about how they plan to transition the census effort since the relocation of students. A spokesperson said they are talking with other campus entities to figure out the best course of action, but the future is still uncertain.


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