In what is arguably the most momentous election in recent years, we at the Collegian are pleased to see that the College and its student organizations have both taken additional measures to help students register to vote. This represents a significant improvement from last semester, when dozens of students had to rush to register after CSAD botched the registration process. However, simply helping to register voters is not enough. If the College truly wants students to vote, it should do everything in its power to make voting as accessible as possible. To this end, Kenyon should cancel all classes this Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Even when Kenyon students register to vote, it has not always translated into action — in 2016, around 85% of students were registered to vote and only about 42% actually voted. Cancelling class on Election Day, among other concrete measures by the College, would help to close this gap.
It is no secret that voters across the country must overcome various challenges in order to cast their ballots this election cycle. The USPS is stifled by a lack of funding, making it unable to accommodate the increased number of mail-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in addition to the nation’s long history of voter disenfranchisement, especially among Black voters. With all of these hurdles, voters have a lot more on their minds than simply who they are voting for this cycle. For Kenyon students, balancing their academic responsibilities with getting to the polls shouldn’t be added to this list.
Cancelling class on Election Day is also in the community’s best interest. Not only will it allow students to prioritize voting, but it will also allow faculty to do the same. It would also have health and safety benefits. Typically, the Gambier Community Center is flooded with voters at peak hours, especially before dinner, in between classes and during Common Hour. Cancelling classes would limit this congestion and thus help maintain social distancing. Additionally, poll workers tend to be some of Kenyon’s more elderly community members, including several professors. Since seniors are considered a high-risk group for COVID-19, there has been an increased demand for young people to work the polls. If Kenyon were to cancel classes, more students would be able to do this important job, taking the burden off of older community members.
Just as employees burdened with work responsibilities have trouble getting to the polls every Election Day, so too do students overwhelmed with academic responsibilities. We hope that Kenyon will continue their efforts to help students and faculty participate in this extremely important election by giving them the time and space to vote safely.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Sophie Krichevsky ’21 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.