Election Day is just around the corner, and Tufts students have begun to prepare for its emotional and historical significance. Despite the importance of this day to many members of the Tufts community, Tufts is holding classes on Nov. 3. This decision seems out of character for a university that prides itself on civic and political engagement, and it poses significant barriers to participate in the presidential election for Tufts students and staff. Tufts faculty and administration should cancel classes on Election Day in order to encourage individuals to vote and be active citizens, especially in an election as critical as the one on the horizon.
At students’ requests, the 2019–20 AS&E Executive Committee looked into the possibility of holding Election Day as a university holiday. However, scheduling constraints pushed administrators to hold classes on Nov. 3, similar to their reasoning for Indigenous Peoples Day. With this decision, they also asked faculty to not schedule examinations, oral reports or other mandatory class assignments for this day. This is yet another example of Tufts prioritizing academic scheduling over recognizing an important national holiday.
Tufts implemented crucial measures to promote voting among the student body, such as holding polling locations on campus — in Cousens Gymnasium and the Tufts Administration Building — as well as sponsoring JumboVote, an organization aimed at increasing voter registration and participation among Tufts students through the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. By holding classes on Election Day, however, Tufts offsets these crucial efforts and contradicts its commitment to civic engagement.
The AS&E Committee’s decision to hold classes on Election Day inhibits and discourages voting among students and faculty. Despite Committee recommendations for students to participate in Election Day without fear of being penalized for missing classes or due dates, students may still feel obligated to attend class in order to keep up with their academic workload. Professors and other faculty members are also adversely affected by this decision, as they may be unable to find time in between classes to head to the polls. Even if students or faculty try to avoid these constraints by voting early, classes on Election Day will prevent many from being civically involved in other ways, such as driving students to the polls, working at polls or spending the day phone banking.
Promoting voting on campus is especially essential given Tufts’ history with voting in past elections. According to data collected by the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), 45.2% of Tufts students voted in the 2018 midterms, and 58% of Tufts students registered to vote cast a ballot. While these rates are higher than the national student average according to the NSLVE, there is still more that Tufts can do to increase its student voter turnout. Given the institutional barriers to voting, such as voter suppression, that target historically marginalized communities, as well as hesitations to vote in-person during the pandemic, Tufts must increase voting accessibility within its community, starting with canceling classes on Nov. 3.
To supplement efforts of Tisch College and student organizations, university programs such as JumboVote must also place greater emphasis on educating students about U.S. voting history and the historic exclusion of people of color from the democratic process.
There is so much at stake in this election, including the fate of laws and policies that will impact the livelihoods of all Americans. Young voters will heavily impact the outcome of this election, just as they did in the 2018 midterms. Beyond the needed actions from the Tufts administration, students also have a vital role. If you are eligible, please exercise your right to vote — you have the ability to influence our future.