Election Day should be a university holiday for CUNY students and faculty


Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA | Wikimedia Commons

The Editorial Board

With Election Day coming up on Nov. 3, The Ticker is calling for CUNY to institute it as a holiday, so that students, faculty and staff can have the day off to vote.

Mandating that students attend class and extracurricular activities on Election Day could prevent or dissuade students from voting. Some students may live far from their polling site or have work or familial obligations to take care of in addition to class.

Staff and faculty members may face the same issue. Taking Election Day off for a student could result in an unexcused absence which can negatively impact their grade. Taking Election Day off for a staff member takes away one of their paid sick days. Neither situation is ideal.

As a result, there are people who decide that they can’t miss their class — which they shouldn’t have to — and end up just not voting.

College students are already a demographic that are very hard to reach politically, as almost half of university students don’t vote. If students have three or more classes and a two-hour commute on Nov. 3, they are even less likely to trek to their assigned polling location.

Beyond that, people who sign up to be poll workers — the application to which CUNY has sent out in an email blast to students — can’t take a break to join in a Zoom lecture. A person just simply can’t become a poll worker if they have classes to teach or attend on that day.

It’s unfair to make anyone choose between their civic duty and their education or career.

If CUNY decides to make Election Day a holiday on the university calendar, it would give students and staff the time to vote, without having to arrange it around commutes, classes and meetings.

Students would also be more inclined to vote, which is supposedly what the university wants seeing that it promotes voter registration drives and encourages students to sign up as poll workers.

The idea of making Election Day an instructional recess is not new and conversations on the subject have been happening at colleges and universities across the country. At the moment, very few universities take Election Day off in America.

Brown University is one of the few schools that does take the day off, though this decision was just made last month. It is a paid day off for faculty and staff, and classes are cancelled for students.

However, this holiday is biennial, meaning it only shows up on the university’s academic calendars once every two years — just for presidential elections and midterms.

While it is thoughtful that the administration decided to give the school community some elections off, it still doesn’t allow Brown students, faculty and staff to vote during local elections, which happen every year regardless of whether there is a presidential or congressional election taking place. In any case, it is a step in the right direction.

The Ticker encourages the Baruch College administration, as well as CUNY Central, to give students and staff the day off on Election Day to allow for civic engagement.