No School For Elections

I want to propose that Olin give students and faculty a day off classes on Election Day.
“What are you talking about, Anne?” you demand, “I don’t want to have to miss my classes for something that doesn’t even matter that much anyways.”
In 2014, 19.9% of 18-29 year-olds cast ballots, the lowest youth voting turnout ever recorded. In the 2012 presidential election, 45% of voters aged 18-29 voted. Young people make up 21% of the overall voting populace and have a greater subset of electorate than seniors (46 million young people, 39 million seniors). The youth vote matters – if no young people had voted in 2012, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania would have flipped from Blue to Red – a sufficient enough portion of electoral votes that we would now be talking about President Romney. But it doesn’t matter what party you support – it matters that you have the chance to make your voice heard.
“Okay, Anne, we get it, stop throwing statistics at us – we get that young people voting matters,” you say. “Why does that mean Olin should give us a day off class for it?”
Well, Olin’s mission statement (according to the ‘14-‘15 student handbook) is to “prepare students to become exemplary engineering innovators who recognize needs, design solutions, and engage in creative enterprises for the good of the world.” To me, that means that Olin should prepare students not just to be exemplary engineers, but exemplary citizens who can take advantage of the democratic enterprises already instilled in our society for the good of the world.
Not only that, but voting falls heavily under the “do something” clause – striving to better yourself and the community. The whole clause encourages us to take responsibility for what happens within Olin and take control of our educational experience if we see something that should be changed. It only makes sense that we apply this philosophy to outside the Olin bubble as well. See things happening in politics that you don’t like? Do something about it – make your voice heard by voting!
“Okay, Anne, we get it, voting is part of our civic duty which Olin should be encouraging,” you say. “Why do we need a day off class for it?”
A few weeks ago, I sent a survey out to Olin students to get an idea of how they vote. Turnout was low (like youth voting rates!), but of the 36 replies, 27% of students indicated that they planned to vote by going to a physical voting location, as opposed to mail-in or absentee ballot. Additionally, we can presume that since faculty and staff generally live in the area around Olin, they will also need to visit a physical location as opposed to absentee ballot.
These are large numbers of people who need time on Election Day to get to and from the voting location, which can be extremely hard for the average Olin student or faculty member to fit into their daily schedule around classes and meetings. A day off classes would give greater flexibility for students to visit voting booths.
Also, this could potentially allow time for more civic discussion to go on at Olin. I for one would love to see more alleyways for discussion of political and current events – a way for us to expand and hear more about what’s going on outside the Bubble. Even students who are absentee voting would benefit from this.
“Okay, Anne, we get it,” you say. And I hope you do! I want to bring this issue out to the community, and if enough people agree with me, I’d like for us to bring it to the administration and work towards actually getting this implemented in time for the 2016 election. It would be amazing to see a greater youth voter turnout, and even though Olin is small, it’s still important for our voices to be heard.

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