Students should not be forced to confront the decision of attending class or voting in the 2020 election. Amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the unusual virtual environment, Georgetown University must work to allow all students to vote in the presidential race.
To ensure all students can equitably vote from their permanent residences Nov. 3, Georgetown must cancel all classes on Election Day while requiring professors to extend any assignments due on that important date.
In 2016, more than half a million eligible voters were unable to vote because of polling place management and long wait times. Students who cannot vote by mail will need to physically visit the polls Nov. 3; if long wait times were an issue in 2016, they will undoubtedly continue amid COVID-19 restrictions. Students may not have a three- or four-hour break between classes Nov. 3, and the university must not force them to choose between democratic participation and attending class.
Georgetown administrators have encouraged professors to be lenient with students and graduate assistants’ attendance on Election Day, and no official rules have been put into place, according to a university spokesperson. However, official guidelines must be implemented to ensure all students can reach the polls.
While encouraging professors to be understanding certainly benefits students, students may still feel obligated to attend class for fear of losing participation points, which have become especially important in the virtual environment, or missing key information. A university wide mandate to cancel classes will eliminate this hesitation.
Furthermore, clearing students’ schedules will also give them the opportunity to volunteer in their communities, especially those that will be significantly affected by the election.
Aida Ross (SFS ’22), a communications associate for Biden for President Arizona, stressed the importance of giving students flexibility during this important election process.
“People across the country are volunteering to be poll workers, turning out the vote on a campaign, and organizing in their communities. Some people’s lives depend on the issues on the ballot this election, and they may feel an immense amount of stress during the election season,” Ross wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Sarah Bryant (SFS ’22), a student leader with GU Votes, a student-led initiative promoting civic engagement, praised the university for its efforts so far to promote civic engagement.
“Yes, Georgetown absolutely has a role to play in making it easier for students to vote. The university has been very supportive of GU Votes’ efforts so far this semester to share voting information and resources, and the institutional support is very important to our work,” Bryant wrote in an email to The Hoya.
While Georgetown has encouraged civic engagement among students, administrators must cancel class to definitively ensure all students have the opportunity to vote and volunteer on Election Day.
However, Bryant also acknowledged the difficulty of canceling Nov. 3 classes with less than a month’s notice.
While professors may feel overwhelmed by this sudden change, the flexibility our virtual environment provides is also important to acknowledge. Some ways professors could alter their plans would be to assign asynchronous lectures or to create a discussion board as a substitute for in-class participation. As long as these assignments are due after Election Day to ensure students are not limited by coursework due Nov. 3, professors will remain on schedule, and students will have the opportunity to visit their local polling place.
Georgetown must work with professors to cancel classes Nov. 3, especially considering the contentious nature of this election. While lecture dates and assignments will have to be moved, students’ ability to vote is much more important than a day’s worth of class.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.