It was boolah boolah at Yale, not so much for the Bulldogs as for the 2010 Census and the good old U.S. Constitution that mandates it.
In 2000 Yale students got poor grades for census participation. At only 30.9 percent of its students, “Yale had one of the smallest counts in the state,” said David Broockman (right), the chief undergraduate volunteer census organizer.
To help reverse that, a crew from the federal government parked one of 13 census buses at Elm Street and High Friday afternoon and began distributing swag and good census cheer.
The event reflected that while New Haven’s biggest challenge is counting people in poorer communities, they’re not the only ones falling under the radar.
“Yeah, census!” declared Broockman, who is a junior, to his fellow undergraduates and passersby. “It’s your obligation under the Constitution [to fill out the form], like taxes.”
Junior Laure Flapan (left) stopped at one of the festive tables, less out of patriotic obligation and more out of interest in a tote bag.
Along with fridge clips, coffee cups, water bottles, pens, and pencils, she got important census info from April Lawson, director of the city’s census planning activities, which operates out of the mayor’s office.
If she filled out the form in her dorm, “won’t I be double counted?” she asked.
Lawson explained that the Census “counts everyone where they are sleeping on April 1.”
Lapan’s family in Arcadia, California, will receive a residential ten-question census form that will instruct them not to count their children if they are away at college or in the military.
The “group quarters” form that Lapan will receive is briefer, only seven questions. The forms will be mailed to individual residences in March. Forms for people living in “group quarters,” like universities, are dropped off by the Census in bulk and then distributed by people like Broockman via partnerships he’s establishing with Yale student organizations.
If people don’t return forms, a second one is sent out. If that is not returned, only then does a census worker come knocking at the door some time in April. “We get much more reliable information,” she said, with the forms mailed in.
Lawson said the Census was working hard in the context of actually expecting more of an undercount this year because of number of factors at play in 2010 that were absent ten years ago, she said.
They included more post-September 11th fears of divulging private information, continuing immigration raids, as well as an atmosphere of more vulnerability to identity theft.
Lawson heads the city’s Complete Count Committee. She herself just graduated from Yale last year. She asked for the bus to drop by because many students don’t understand they’re supposed to fill out the forms too, and where they reside on April 1, she said.
Lapan was happy with the information she got and the treats. However, she asked if she could exchange the beige tote bag for the blue. The U.S. Census obliged her.
She wanted to emphasize that the Census is completely confidential. If you end up talking to a worker, that person has sworn an oath of confidentiality that they break on pain of a $250,000 fine. “It’s very safe,” she said.
For more info as well as job opportunities as counters or supervisors, which are still available, the contact info: census headquarters at Long Wharf: 203-404-0940; or firstname.lastname@example.org