Tufts faculty, staff and employees that are registered to vote can take one hour of paid leave on Election Day to go vote, according to an Oct. 24 email to all university employees from Tufts Human Resources. The new policy will be continued in future years, according to Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell.
The policy is available to benefits-eligible university employees, defined by Campbell as those who work 17.5 hours or more per week. According to Campbell, this policy applies to the entire university including all graduate schools, and is expected to benefit staff the most, as faculty members typically have more flexibility in their schedules.
Given that Tufts encourages civic engagement and voting, the university considered it important to reduce any potential barriers to voting for staff and faculty, Campbell said.
According to Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life Alan Solomont, this is the first year that the university has offered this benefit as an official policy.
Vice President of Human Resources Julien Carter said that the idea for the policy stemmed from Tufts employees’ admiration of Solomont’s efforts to increase voter registration.
“There were a number of us that looked at his efforts and said, ‘What are we doing to encourage civic engagement along the lines of what Dean Solomont is doing?'” Carter said. “We decided we need to offer this … to promote civic engagement.”
The idea came from staff in the Office of the President and was drafted by Human Resources, Campbell said. The draft was introduced to the academic and administrative councils, which are made up of deans, vice presidents, executive deans and other senior administrators, on Sept. 21 and was approved on Oct. 22, according to Campbell.
“Our leadership was really very supportive of the idea of doing this,” Campbell said.
According to Reynol Junco, a senior researcher at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement in Tisch College, getting to the polls is a major barrier to voting for many people. Junco also said that it can be difficult for staff to find time to vote, due to work hours and family commitments.
“This kind of policy really encourages people to go vote,” Junco said. “[Tufts is] reducing a really substantial barrier to voting, which is not having the time.”
Employees are required to let their supervisors know before they leave, so that any work can be covered, Campbell said.
To communicate this policy to employees, Tufts sent out the Oct. 24 email to all employees and also discussed it at academic and administrative council meetings. According to Carter, Tufts will send another email before Election Day to remind faculty and staff of this opportunity.
“If we have the benefit, we want people to use it,” Campbell said.
Both Solomont and Campbell said that it was very important for Tufts to implement a policy of paid voting leave, given the university’s emphasis on voting and civic engagement.
“I think that this university believes deeply in the importance of civic responsibility. One of the most important civic responsibilities is to vote,” Solomont said. “Not only do we teach that, but also the university recognizes the importance of practicing what we preach.”
“I think it really speaks to our values,” Campbell added. “If we’re encouraging students to register to vote and vote, we should be doing the same for our employees.”
Solomont said that he expects the benefit to be widely used.
“The American people are realizing more and more the importance of participating,” Solomont said. “This simply is going to make it easier for staff to avoid longer lines or get to their polling place and get home to dinner.”
Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon supported the policy as well.
“I think it’s great to see Tufts encouraging civic engagement through voting,” McMahon said.
Solomont hopes that Tufts can be a model for other schools.
“Hopefully Tufts will set an example and others will follow suit,” Solomont said.