When CUNY was chartered, it was written that the university must promote civic engagement among students. In past years, this has taken the form of voter registration drives and rallies to promote civic activity among students. It is time to take a larger step forward to ensure CUNY and, specifically, Baruch College students participate in our democracy. Baruch must give students the day off on either Election Day, Higher Education Action Day or the state of New York’s primary day.
The easiest argument can be made for Election Day, as it is the most important time to vote. On the contrary, the general election in New York City is nearly always a one-sided affair, as the districts are mainly comprised of registered Democrats. Primary day is important since student voter turnout could potentially sway many more elections. Additionally, primary day tends to have even less of a turnout, which makes the student vote a more powerful one.
Many students come from work and attend night classes or take morning classes and then work late into the evenings. With this schedule, they do not have time to make it to the polls. Additionally, long lines at poll sites generate an even lower student turnout. Higher Education Action Day is a day each year when students from across CUNY take buses up to Albany to meet with state legislators and discuss issues regarding our university.
This Thursday, March 2, students will have the opportunity to once again travel to the state capital for this important day. Unfortunately, many students do not want to miss class to make the trip so they do not attend. We need as many students voting and participating in these action days as possible. This shows legislators that we are engaged and ready to mobilize if they do not make higher education a priority.
Faculty will be the most likely proponent of student mobilization. Professors have the power to adopt an academic calendar that will accommodate a day off. By adding a day or two to the start of school or adding on days at the end, they will still be able to fulfill the appropriate hours of class time.
On Feb. 20, our college was closed to celebrate President’s Day, the birthday of our first president, George Washington. While this is a reasonable day to have no classes, it is important to recognize that there are more needed.
If you wish to attend higher education action day on Thursday, March 2, please contact me or the Undergraduate Student Government at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel Dornbaum is the president of USG. He can be reached at email@example.com. His office is located at 3-272 in the Newman Vertical Campus.