This year will be the first time Lehigh has canceled classes on Election Day after years of student petitions and requests.
The Faculty Senate voted in favor of canceling classes on Election Day in September of 2020 in response to a proposal presented by the president of Hawk the Vote, a student-run organization that advocated for canceling classes on Election Day. Lehigh administration later decided to give the day off for the following year’s Election Day.
Now called Civic Engagement Day, this year’s class-free Election Day on Nov. 2 will feature civics-related discussions and presentations run by members of the Lehigh community to encourage students to get involved and vote.
To accommodate this scheduling change, one day was removed from Pacing Break in October.
Brian Fife, political science department chair, said the title of Civic Engagement Day suggests to him that the Lehigh community as a whole needs to do more when it comes to voting and getting politically involved.
“It is important for the students to take advantage of the day to send a strong message to the university community and the broader community that we’re going to do something with this day and make it extremely meaningful,” Fife said.
While Lehigh has hosted events for Election Day in the past, it has been difficult for students to attend because of classes.
Some of this year’s events will include community discussions regarding political issues and presentations from various faculty members. These events will continue throughout Civic Engagement Day until 5 p.m.
Declan Coster, ‘23, a Student Senate representative for the calendar committee, has organized events for Election Day in the past and worked to change the Lehigh academic calendar to accommodate for this day off.
Coster emphasized the importance of local elections and taking advantage of the events Lehigh is holding this year. Coster said he encourages students to wake up early, go to the polls and then attend these events.
He said these events will help students not just to understand what is on the ballot, but some of the important social and political topics that are on students’ minds and on the minds of people all over the country.
“Our Lehigh community can only grow together, and that starts with having discussions that are difficult and listening to each other,” Coster said. “That’s one of the main things we’re trying to aim for with these educational events.”
Lehigh’s Student Political Action Coalition played a key role in getting the day off of classes. Lehigh SPAC President Brian Lucas said the goal of SPAC is to get students to vote without pushing any specific agenda, by simply emphasizing that it is students’ civic duty.
Lucas said when it comes to politics, many people have the idea that only the national elections matter because they get the most media attention. However, he said it is important for students to understand how voting can also make an impact in their local communities.
“Students should spend the day aligning themselves with the candidate that they want to see put in office and understanding the issues in the area,” Lucas said. “Get everyone you know who isn’t doing anything for the day to join and make it a big thing, go have brunch and then go vote together.”