Interim Provost Jan Love announced in a Sept. 21 student-wide email that the deans of Emory’s nine schools will individually decide whether and how they will provide students with time to vote on Election Day. Love noted that an Election Day holiday may not be possible for schools given the compressed academic calendar.
The announcement came six days after College Council (CC) sent a student-signed petition to University President Gregory L. Fenves and Chair of Faculty Council and University Senate President Giacomo Negro requesting Election Day be declared a University-wide holiday.
Love encouraged deans “to be flexible in supporting students” by allowing professors to reschedule classes, offer asynchronous content or provide ways to make up missed synchronous work.
However, CC President Aditya Jhaveri (21C) and Fourth-Year Legislator Sun Woo Park (19Ox, 21C) were disappointed with the lack of a long-term University commitment and a failure to engage students before making a decision.
“They didn’t even afford students a conversation before they sent out what seems to be a final decision on what is going to be happening in the fall,” Jhaveri said. Park noted that CC “didn’t even get a heads-up that this email was being sent.”
Jhaveri also pointed out that, although Love mentioned the Emory Votes Initiatve and the voter registration program TurboVote, the announcement did not link directly to the TurboVote website. “There’s a lot more to the conversation that maybe wasn’t discussed because a lot more voices were not included when making this decision,” he said.
Jhaveri and Park said CC would decide next steps during the Wednesday general body meeting, but Jhaveri made it clear that “this isn’t something we are going to stop putting pressure.”
CC understands the constraints of this year’s academic calendar, they said, but they’re looking for an administrative commitment to establish an academic holiday next year.
“Even if it can’t be accomplished for this election, a commitment to ensure that the goals that we are striving [for] can be accomplished by the following election,” Jhaveri said. “Because again, this isn’t a short-term thing. Sure, we might disappear, but we want this initiative to keep going on.”
Negro responded to the CC petition in a Sept. 17 email, writing, “leadership of the University Senate is working on a statement in support of voting.” Park said CC is in the process of finalizing discussion dates with the University Senate.
Love responded to CC’s petition on behalf of Fenves, a day after the University-wide message saying the administration “concluded that class adjustments need to be made at the school level” following discussions with Fenves and the deans around the condensed calendar.
She continued that it was “invigorating and inspiring to hear students speak so passionately about their commitment to democracy,” reminding administration “of why we do the work that we do.”
Members of the Young Democrats of Emory and Emory College Republicans, both of which worked with CC on the original petition, had mixed reactions to Love’s email.
“I am disappointed and frustrated that the University still has not created an actionable plan to allow students, faculty and staff exercise their constitutional right to vote,” President of Young Democrats of Emory Alex Chanen (21B) said.
However, Jasmine Jaffe (22C), president of Emory College Republicans, was “pleased with the administration’s response,” and noted that the decision to encourage “professors to minimize coursework should hopefully allow more students to vote.”
Love on Sept. 21 also emailed faculty and staff with information about “where and how to vote as well as the university’s leave policy for early or Election Day voting.”
School Election Day Plans
Per Love’s email, each school has a different plan regarding Election Day. As of press time, no school decided to cancel classes.
College Dean Michael Elliott wrote in a Sept. 22 email to the Wheel that his “office is enthusiastically supporting” an Emory College Faculty Senate resolution to suspend mandatory synchronous activities or allow students to make up those missed.
Rollins School of Public Health students have pushed their administrators to make Election Day a “Rollins Day ON for Civic Engagement,” according to a Sept. 21 email from Associate Dean Kara Robinson.
“This decision will allow students, faculty, and staff both the flexibility and opportunity to vote and to participate in additional civic activities on November 3 without the penalty of missing classes or work,” Robinson wrote.
Dean of the Emory School of Medical Vikas Sukhatme replied Sept. 21 that “with the exception of patient care, educational experiences scheduled on November 3rd will be limited to one, 90-minute required activity,” with all other activities becoming asynchronous.
Candler Theology School “formally voted in November 2019 to arrange course offerings for all subsequent fall semesters such that classes will be cancelled every November election day,” Dean Love wrote in a Sept. 21 email to the Wheel. Despite calendar changes, the school will be able to keep that commitment this year.
Goizueta Business School has asked its faculty to provide asynchronous options on Election Day and avoid scheduling exams, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Nicole Hitpas wrote to the Wheel Sept. 22.
Emory School of Law Associate Dean for Marketing Susan Clark wrote in an Sept. 22 email to the Wheel that administrators “strongly encouraged” flexibility to faculty and was evaluating class cancellation.
Dean Douglas Hicks of Oxford College wrote that he will “reinforce faculty members’ own commitment to support students in voting to show flexibility and understanding in their course assignments” at an “upcoming faculty meeting” in a Sept. 23 email to the Wheel.
In a Sept. 24 communication to students, Dean of Laney Graduate School Lisa Tedesco wrote that LGS will recommend a suspension of mandatory classes or a mechanism to make up work without penalty.
The directive recommends that labs“suspend teaching-assistant responsibilities” on election day either from 8am to 5pm or a minimum four hour block. in a Sept. 21 email that there was no information to share at that time, though she would follow up once they communicated with students.
The dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing did not respond to the Wheel’s requests for comment by press time.
Anjali Huynh and Isaiah Poritz contributed reporting.
Update (9/24/2020 at 7:30 p.m.): The story has been updated to include election day plans from the Candler School of Theology, Laney Graduate School and Oxford College.
Correction (9/23/2020 at 6:04 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that Love’s email did not link to election resources. In fact, Love’s email did link to the Emory Votes Initiative website.