On Sept. 4, Lehigh’s Faculty Senate voted in favor of Hawk the Vote, a campaign centered around cancelling classes at the university on Election Day this upcoming November. Hawk the Vote picked up steam in July, and this most recent move puts the final decision in the administration’s hands.
Throughout the university’s history, Lehigh has continued academic and extracurricular activities on several national holidays aside from pre-determined academic breaks.
Although this may look like students are arguing for an extra vacation day off from school, it’s important to note that there is an action item embedded within the holiday. It’s also important to recognize that this decision not only impacts students, but faculty and staff as well. And most if not all public schools have off on Election Day anyway.
Those who work for the university have tasks and responsibilities outside of their jobs such as caring for their families. By not having to come into work they are better able to fit in time to vote in person without the stress of long polling lines interfering with the classes they teach or the shifts they need to clock in for.
Encouraging the right to vote is incredibly important. According to FairVote, a nonpartisan voter advocacy organization, only 60 percent of eligible voters vote in presidential elections, and the number plunders to 40 percent for midterm races. Additionally, in the 2016 presidential election, according to one study, only slightly more than 40 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds voted, the age group with the lowest voter turnout.
It is incredibly evident that this is not just an on-campus issue. Given the current situation at various universities nationwide, many students are taking classes in a different state and time zone from which they are registered to vote. By having the day off of classes, it would quite honestly make everything simpler for those planning to vote in person on Election Day.
Having class on Election Day only contributes to voter apathy among the youngest generation of eligible voters. We don’t have to make it difficult for people to vote. This is just one step we can take to make it easier.
Additionally, many college-age students will be first-time voters in the 2020 Election. If you are championing the cancellation of classes, it’s not just enough to be registered yourself. Encourage your classmates, your friends and peers to do the same.
Get educated about who’s on the ballot. While it is a presidential year, and while the presidential campaign certainly consumes seemingly all the media coverage, there’s more to it than that. Most change starts at the grassroots level, and your vote can genuinely change your community when you take part in state and local elections. Research your state representative, your congressman and your school board.
Within the last six months, we’ve seen our country and communities change in unprecedented and somewhat unfathomable ways. The sheer differences between how each state handled COVID-19 precautions and regulations speaks volumes about the need for greater citizen involvement and understanding at the local and state level.
We also know that leadership starts at the top and that national and state responsibilities are codependent, both of which need to be strong and assist each other in times of crisis. The pandemic has exposed just how important it is to maintain a solid working relationship between the federal and state governments.
As the university administration comes to think on these points regarding the cancellation of classes on Nov. 3, we ask that they consider the role they play in voter turnout, national and local influence and the ability for its community to practice its civic duties.
In this election, there is just too much at stake for people to feel like they have to sit it out in order to meet other obligations. Lehigh shouldn’t be the reason, whether it be for class or work, that eligible voters don’t cast a ballot this November.
We urge the administration to cancel classes on Election Day.