Anna Meassick | Students were granted the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off to give more time for traveling.
This year, students at the University of Rhode Island will be given off from classes on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving. The rationale behind this decision is to allow time for out-of-state students to get home for the holiday.
Dr. Carnell Jones, the director of Enrollment Services at the University of Rhode Island, explained the role the Office of Enrollments Services has in crafting the academic calendar and said that “Enrollment Services, with the blessing of the Provost, sets the academic calendar.” The calendar, Dr. Jones said, is then put in front of the Faculty Senate for an up/down vote.
Freshman Kevin Hart agreed with the calendar change, and said that having the day off “makes travel easier,” and will allow him and other out-of-state students to “beat the traffic.”
However, not all students at the University of Rhode Island were pleased with the decision, arguing that the University should give students Election Day off instead.
Sam Foer, president of the URI branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, points out the problems with URI’s policy. “Having school on Election Day is completely inconsistent with URI’s purported values,” Foer said. “The University proclaims civic participation and involvement as cornerstone values of the school, yet fail to give students Election Day off, thus creating an obstacle for student voting.”
Jay Rumas, vice president of the URI branch of the ACLU, elaborated on Foer’s position. During an interview, Rumas referenced a Faculty Senate report from 2017, which included a survey and a series of conclusions related to having school on Election Day.
This report, which was obtained by the Cigar, states that 92.2 percent of undergraduate students support having Election Day off. The survey also asked respondents whether or not they were able to vote in the 2016 election. According to the results, 26 percent of students that wanted to vote in the 2016 election were unable to do so because of “academic and time obligations.” This report clearly states that “holding classes on Election Day does not prevent students from voting.”
Rumas, however, took particular offense to this inference. He disagreed, saying that holding classes on election day does prevent student voting, given that 26 percent of students surveyed were unable to vote because of “academic and time obligations.”
The survey results also cast some doubt on the general feeling of the student body regarding the importance of having Election Day off. According to the survey, given a choice between six different possible days off, 40 percent of students chose the day before Thanksgiving as their most preferred, compared to 15 percent choosing Election Day.
In comparison to other Universities in the area such as the University of Maine, the University of Vermont, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, University of Connecticut and more, all hold class on Election Day and five out of the seven schools examined have at least the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off.
When asked about the results of the 2017 survey, and whether or not 26 percent of students being unable to vote because of the schedule was acceptable, Dr. Jones said he had never seen the survey nor heard the concerns of students in the URI ACLU. “If students cannot physically make it to the polls, they can vote via absentee ballot or mail ballots,” said Jones.