Jared Goldberg, a 2022 political science alumnus, stood at the Bell Tower for six to seven hours every day throughout October 2022. He rallied about 5,000 people to sign his petition which asked Temple’s administration to cancel classes on Election Day as a celebration of civic engagement, pressuring them to take action.
Last year’s petition included the signatures of just more than 4,000 students, 135 faculty, 47 staff, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas and 71 alumni, including Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, according to documents obtained by The Temple News.
If the admin agreed to the actions included in the petition, the Temple community would have had time to cast their vote at the polls without missing class or university-related work, but for both the 2022 and 2023 elections, students were not given off.
Arlo Blaisus, a third year Beasley School of Law student, picked up the project after Goldberg graduated in the Fall 2022 semester. Blaisus is now advocating for all Temple students to receive off on Election Day in November 2024 and is working with Temple Provost Gregory Mandel, Temple Student Government and Temple University Democrats in hopes of achieving that goal.
Maya Halma, the president of TU Democrats, met with Blaisus in late-August about collaborating to advocate for the day off on behalf of undergraduates. Halma, a communications and social influence and Spanish major, has begun mobilizing members of TU Democrats to apply pressure on administration to take action in canceling classes on Election Day.
TU Democrats will begin their advocacy today. Members will be sending emails to the Provost’s office about what civic engagement and Election Day means to them. If the university fails to initiate an action plan for students to receive off on Election Day 2024, the organization will begin protesting at the Bell Tower, Halma said.
“If we don’t feel satisfied with the response that we get from the administration, then we will start ramping up our efforts of making a more visible presence on campus and we’ll start advocating the Bell Tower and passing fliers around campus,” Halma said.
In 2022, Blaisus successfully advocated alongside the American Constitution Society, an organization working to advance social justice and civil rights through the legal system, for Beasley law students to have Election Day off. While non-law students won’t have Election Day off this year, Blaisus is committed to ensuring that all Temple students receive off for the 2024 presidential election.
For Blaisus, Election Day isn’t just a time to head to the ballots, but an opportunity to get involved in the local community, practice civic engagement and volunteer at the polls. When Beasley gave law students the day off for the 2022 election, Blaisus organized a non-partisan Civic Engagement Fair.
“I was able to compile some data to show the law school this was effective, and we had a lot of students getting involved,” Blaisus said. “We had a lot of students saying they were using that day to volunteer when otherwise they wouldn’t have been.”
Blaisus was appointed to the Election Day Working Group by Mandel on Jan. 17, which was created after Goldberg’s petition received administration’s attention. Blaisus was added to the group because of his success in securing Election Day off for Beasley students.
Goldberg and Blaisus initially connected through a professor who had helped both Blaisus and Goldberg on their campaigns. Once Goldberg graduated, he formally passed his project into Blaisus’s hands.
Goldberg’s petition and goals were presented to the Election Day Working Group on April 5, and he was equipped with a Faculty Senate Resolution, which stated the Faculty Senate unanimously supported the goals of the petition, according to documents obtained by The Temple News. TSG also created a resolution calling for the change to be adopted.
“The fact that the whole student government had signed off meant this letter was speaking with the voice of the student body and we sent it to administration,” Blaisus said. “That was one of these things we used to show we were serious and people were really interested in this.”
Following Goldberg’s presentation, Temple administration planned to launch its own poll on TUPortal to gauge student interest in having Election Day off, according to documents obtained by The Temple News.
The poll was expected to launch early Fall 2023, however, it has yet to be seen almost halfway through the Fall semester.
The poll is still expected to launch later this fall and will ask students about their preferences for days off in the fall, including fall break and Election Day during future academic years, Mandel wrote in an email to The Temple News.
“Based on student feedback, we once again scheduled a fall wellness day [on] October 13th,” Mandel wrote. “I have asked [the Election Day Working Group] to continue to explore other aspects of our calendar including fall breaks, summer sessions, and how we attend to cultural, religious, and civic holidays and days of importance to members of our community.”
When researching whether a day off for Temple students on Election Day was feasible, the Election Day Working Group utilized data from Day on Democracy and The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement. The group also compared Temple to other universities that had off for Election Day, like the Community College of Philadelphia, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Delaware.
The committee also noted that Temple’s voter turn-out rate during the 2020 presidential election was higher than peer institutions and the national average at 73 percent, according to documents obtained by The Temple News.
The national voting average for college students during the 2020 election was 66 percent, according to The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement. In comparison to Drexel University, 70-79 percent of students turned out for the 2020 election, while 73 percent of Temple students voted.
Although students don’t have the day off for this year’s election, which will determine the city’s next mayor, Blaisus is determined that Election Day in November 2024 will be a day of civic engagement for all students.
“I’ve been trying to lay the groundwork for when we get to a point where administration is asking for student input,” Blaisus said. “I’ve got a network of people that can spread the word in a grassroots fashion, building up a network of people to advocate for this.”