Canceled classes give students more time to vote

Some professors are canceling classes so students can turn out to the polls.

A voter casts a ballot on Election Day in 2012. Some professors have canceled their Tuesday class sessions to ensure students can make it to the polls on Nov. 6. | KATE MCCANN / FILE PHOTO

Matthew Stein thinks it’s important to give students at least an hour and 20 minutes to go vote on Election Day.

Students may have difficulty getting to the polls, especially if they have hectic schedules, said Stein, a political science instructor and doctoral political science student. He wants to give students the time they need, so he’s canceling his classes next Tuesday.

This semester, Stein teaches an Introduction to Political Philosophy course. He said he always cancels classes on Election Day so students have the chance to get to the polls between their classes and jobs.

“The feedback’s been positive because people want to either help out on campaigns, help out on Election Day or vote on Election Day,” Stein added.

There is no university-wide policy canceling classes to give students time to hit the polls, but Temple University professors can choose to do so. Before the 2016 presidential election, students unsuccessfully petitioned the university on for classes to be canceled on Election Day.

Some schools like Columbia University designate the day before the election as an academic holiday and Election Day as a university holiday. For other colleges, the decision to cancel class is often the professor’s choice.

Joshua Lachewitz, a second-year law student, said some of his professors will record their classes next Tuesday and put them online so students can use class time to go to the polls.

“People said that we would prefer to have class anyway because there were only a few people that were worried they would not be able to make it,” Lachewitz said.

Many other democracies around the world, like Australia, Brazil and Greece, hold elections during a weekend so more people can vote, according to ThinkProgress, a news website operated by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Political science professor Michael Hagen doesn’t have any classes this Election Day, but said he has canceled class in the past to give students time to get to the polls.

“I’d like to be able to provide people with the specific opportunity to go and vote, and I like to do what I can to encourage people to start voting at a young age,” Hagen said.

Madeline Colker, a senior English and media studies and production major, is registered to vote in Philadelphia and plans to vote during a short break between classes.

“Our opinion is going to set the course for America for the next generation or so,” Colker said. “We need to be heard now.”

Chris Smith, a junior political science major and the president of Temple University College Republicans, collaborated with media organizations across the city to help turn out the youth vote for the midterm elections. | MARISSA HOWE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Chris Smith, a junior political science major and the president of Temple College Republicans, said he doesn’t think Temple should require professors to cancel classes, but professors should consider it.

“So many people our age don’t vote and that’s terrible,” he said. “Any opportunity that Temple could give us to get out there and get our vote out is a good opportunity.”

Earlier this semester, Temple College Republicans collaborated with Temple College Democrats to increase student and youth voter registration rates through #VoteThatJawn, a citywide campaign, Smith said. More than 10 partners participated in the initiative to turn out the youth vote, including the Klein College of Media and Communication, The Philadelphia Citizen and WURD Radio.

“If I could get a couple of students who are on the fence to go to the polls on Election Day, and maybe get an idea [of the] responsibility that they have as a citizen of the United States, well then I think that’s worth canceling a class and making it up later in the semester,” Hagen said.

William Clark, a junior metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM major, said professors should keep in mind commuters like himself who vote at polling places far from campus. He plans to vote around 7 a.m. before class.

“Voter turnout is really low,” Clark said. “Part of that is because we have a lot of shift jobs and schoolwork that gets in the way. I think school professors should make it as easy as possible for students to get out there and vote.”

For Stein, canceling class is an incentive for young voters who don’t feel like their voices are heard.

“If we can get more young folks out to the polls, then politicians have to pay attention to the age groups that have younger people,” Stein said.

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