Student pushes administrators to acknowledge election day as University holiday
About 59 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the 2016 national election, according to Statistic Brain. One School of Arts and Sciences junior hopes to change this statistic by implementing a University holiday for national election day.
Christopher Markosian, a School of Arts and Sciences Senate leader at-large, said he believes there are many reasons individuals between 18 and 24 did not vote in this past election, including time constraints, voting in inconvenient polling places and being out of town.
“All of these reasons apply to University students who, at the time of election, most likely do not reside at their permanent home addresses,” he said.
In order to fix this issue, Markosian and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and Senate Leader Julie Serrano proposed an amendment to the University academic calendar to designate any election day as a University holiday, with no classes held that day, Markosian said.
He said the cancellation of classes would encourage students to vote and emphasize the importance of election day.
“Members of the Rutgers community would be able to act and reflect on the importance of voting, allowing for a larger voter turnout among the population," he said. "This would enable students to travel to their home districts to cast their vote, cultivate a tradition of voting and represent all beliefs and ideas of our diverse student body.”
Rutgers School of Business junior and Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) Vice President Evan Covello said students have hectic class schedules and some do not register at polling locations near campus. Having election day categorized as a national holiday gives students the opportunity to go to polls and have their voices heard.
If Rutgers made election day a University holiday, they would be the first school in the Big Ten to do so, Covello said. This could be a way for Rutgers to be a leader for encouraging civic engagement.
In order for election day to be considered a University holiday, the charge must be issued for investigation by the Rutgers University Senate Executive Committee and then the Senate’s Academic Standards, Regulation and Advising Committee (ASRAC) for investigation and development of a report, Markosian said. After that, it would then be voted on by the entire Senate.
Responses from University officials have been mixed, Serrano said.
“Some officials love the idea and agree that such a holiday is necessary. Others have argued that the issue is not a priority to the University at the moment, refusing to address the charge,” she said.
Despite mixed reviews from University officials, Covello said an overwhelming majority of the student body supports the idea. A lot of barriers prevent students from being able to vote and declaring election day as a University holiday will make it easier for students, which is why it gained so much support.
“Based on the results of the poll completed by Rutgers students, 95 percent of respondents stated that they would be more likely to vote if no classes were in session on presidential election day,” Markosian said.
Markosian said they reached out the several universities that did not hold classes on 2016 election day and were provided testimonials regarding how beneficial having the day off was to the student body in regards to voting.
Serrano said that they have been struggling to get the Senate Executive Committee to agree to charge this issue to the Senate’s academic standards.
“We encourage students to email the Chair of the Senate, Peter Gillett, about this to encourage him to hear it in Executive Committee. We have been working extremely hard on this charge, including meeting with influential Senate members to garner support as well as putting countless hours into writing the final report. We have gained the support of numerous members of the Senate as well as a large portion of the student population. Yet without Chairperson Gillett agreeing to hear it in Executive Committee, the charge will go nowhere,” she said.
Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the Associate News Editor for The Daily Targum.