University of Kansas administrators declined a proposal from student senators to cancel all classes on election day, Nov. 3.
Senators passed a resolution at a meeting Oct. 14 asking that administrators make the adjustment to the calendar to give students a chance to drive home to vote at their polling location or to clear up time for students to make it to the polls in Douglas County.
“I believe that civic education and civic engagement is a practice and it’s something that is something you learn and you have to engage with,” said Student Senate Government Relations Director Logan Stenseng.
In a response to Senate executives, Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said while administrators do want to encourage students to participate in the election, an already condensed calendar for the fall semester does not allow flexibility to cancel another day.
“Across-the-board cancellation of classes for Election Day would interfere with our ability to deliver instruction to thousands of students during what is already a tightly compacted semester,” she said in an email to Student Senate executives. “Approving this proposal would likely create its own challenges for students.”
Bichelmeyer also said while the cancellation would be beneficial to Kansas residents, it would not affect the ability for most out-of-state students to vote on election day.
KU will have an advanced voting site open at the Lied Center Oct. 26-30 for all Douglas County voters. There is also a ballot drop-off site for Douglas County voters. in Lot 94, east of Memorial Stadium. Bichelmeyer said even for non-Douglas County voters, there are “unprecedented opportunities” to vote this year by absentee and advanced ballots.
“Our sincere hope is that the student-citizens of KU will develop a plan for voting and use the venues and logistics that serve them best,” she said in the message.
Stenseng said while there are other ways to cast a ballot, having the day off specifically for the election would further encourage students to participate.
When asked about how it would impact school work in an already modified schedule, Stenseng said the definitive increase in voter turnout outweighs the potential effect it would have on classes.
“We have holidays and we have breaks for all these other days and those are valuable days, but this is one that actually has an impact on our society that lasts years,” Stenseng said.
Student Body Vice President Grant Daily also said the calendar planning committee considered writing election day into the academic calendar as a holiday. Because calendars are created several years in advance, though, it will be five years before this is potentially enacted.
Though classes will still be in session on Election Day, KU will have an in-person polling location for voters in the Douglas County 10th precinct at the Lied Center, and all Kansas polling locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.