Make Election Day a Campus Holiday

Dear Educational Plans and Policies Committee and Educational Policy Committee,

We write today to ask that Oberlin College and Conservatory cancels classes on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, considering students’ health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our commitment to civic action, and a responsibility to our academics. We also ask that Oberlin College and Conservatory establish Election Day as a permanent campus holiday moving forward.

Reports of long lines and crowds at early voting locations throughout Ohio raise concerns due to the risks associated with the pandemic. If we see similar crowds and  waiting times in Oberlin, College and Conservatory students will likely have to decide whether to vote or to attend all of their classes, in addition to weighing concerns with regard to their health. We know that in past elections students have found it difficult to make time to vote because of their busy schedules. The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff must be a priority, in addition to allowing time for students to vote during less crowded times. Oberlin College students are passionate about the outcome of this election. They are also passionate about their academics. Many may feel trapped by their lack of options. Demonstrating the College’s commitment to civic engagement, we should provide students with the flexibility to vote if they wish, rather than vote if they can.

Cancelling classes this Nov. 3, as well as establishing Election Day as a permanent campus holiday, demonstrates that Oberlin College and Conservatory prioritizes civic engagement and encourages students to make their voices heard at the ballot box. For many students, their first opportunity to participate in an election will occur while attending college. Giving students the necessary time to vote, do research on candidates and ballot initiatives, volunteer as poll workers, and reflect on the democratic process would reaffirm the College’s standing as a beacon of progressive leadership within higher education, signaling to peer institutions the importance of this issue.

Colleges and universities across the country have recently committed to cancelling classes this coming Election Day — notably, Stanford Law School, Columbia University, American University, Brown University, and Colorado College. The example set forward by these schools is part of a national conversation regarding voter suppression, access, and engagement. As voter suppression efforts take effect across the country, community organizers, nonprofits, and elected officials are working to increase participation in the electoral process. States such as Virginia and Illinois have declared Election Day a state holiday, and legislation has been introduced in both chambers of the United States Congress to do the same nationally. While Ohio has not designated Election Day as a state holiday, there are immediate steps that we can take on campus to emphasize our values, increase voter turnout in Lorain County, and encourage students to engage in critical reflection, connecting their in-class learning with the contemporary issues brought up by this historic election.

In the midst of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and increased attention to racism and racial justice, the issues tied to this particular election have led to heightened anxiety among students, faculty, and administrators — especially among students of color. Regardless of the outcome, or of students’ partisan leanings, students will need increased flexibility and agency to take care of their mental health on Election Day. While state election officials across the country, particularly in traditional swing states, are suggesting that the 2020 election cycle will likely continue past the Nov. 3 date, this particular day will be important in allowing students the space needed to process the events in their own way.

Cancelling classes on Election Day allows students, faculty, administrators, and staff to breathe, take care of ourselves, and support each other. Instead of attending classes on Election Day, we recommend that students consider participating in programming hosted by the OC Votes initiative and engage with civic student organizations on campus. We also recommend that professors consider additional programming to connect class material with the events of the day. Some students might find comfort in these productive dialogues. We recognize that this request has implications for professors’ syllabi. However, we believe that some aspect of curricular learning could be maintained through these optional activities, for any professors who desire to do so. 

Alternatively, some students may wish to distract themselves after voting by participating in activities or events centered around joy and self-care. These accommodations are especially important since students did not have a Fall Break this semester, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such mental breaks are few and far between, and they are highly needed by all.

It is for the reasons listed above that Oberlin College and Conservatory Student Senate, along with the student organizations listed below, request that classes be canceled on Nov. 3, 2020, and that the General Faculty Committee take appropriate steps toward making Election Day an official, recurring campus holiday.


Oberlin College & Conservatory Student Senate

Henry Hicks ’21, Chair

Arman Luczkow ’22, Student Senator

Oberlin Conservatory Council of Students

Melinda Wisdom ’22, President

Olivia Fink ’21, Vice President

Oberlin College Democrats

Julian Mitchell-Israel ’21, Co-Chair

Emily Fiorentino ’22, Co-Chair


Miranda Harris ’22, Social Media Coordinator

Eliza Young ’22, Chair

Oberlin Christian Fellowship

Ben Jalensky ’22, Chapter Director

Gwen Goble ’22, Chapter Coordinator

Multiracial Students Association

Benjamin Eckols ’23, Treasurer

Sophia Diez-Zhang ’22, Co-Chair


Nia Lewis ’21, Alumni Liaison

Benjamin Collado ’22, Administrative Chair

Chabad Student Group

Theo Canter ’23, Treasurer

Havi Carillo-Klein ’22, Co-Chair

La Alianza Latinx

Magali Coronado ’22, Co-Chair

Emily Bermudez ’21, Co-Chair

Black Scientists Guild

Lauriel Powell, ’22, Co-Chair

Black Student Athlete Group (BSAG)

Kofi Asare ’22, Co-Chair

Malaïka Djungu-Sungu ’22, Co-Chair

Asian American Alliance

Zoë Luh ’22, Co-Chair

Avehn Chu ’21 Co-Chair

African Students Association

Mowa Badmos ’22, Co-Chair

Blessing Bwititi ’21, Co-Chair

The Grape

Cameron Avery ’21, Editor-in-Chief

Jane Wickline ’21, Editor-in-Chief

Sunrise Oberlin

Tyler Kupcho ’23, Bookkeeper

Madison Olsen ’23, Bookkeeper

Japanese Students Association

Akira Di Sandro ’21, Treasurer

Ellisa Lang ’21, Secretary

The Synapse

Victoria Fisher ’21, Editor-in-Chief

Drew Dansby ’23, Oberlin City Liaison

WOBC 91.5-FM

Bridget Conway ’21, Station Manager

Grace McAllister ’21, Operations Manager