Paul L. Caron

Monday, November 5, 2018

Gamage: A Call For Professors To Cancel Classes On Election Day

VoteDavid Gamage (Indiana), A Call for Professors to Consider Cancelling Classes on Election Day, and for Employers to Consider Letting Employees Leave Early:

Democracy is important. Democracy is fragile.

Those were my reflections a few weeks ago, when my family gathered for the unveiling of my grandfather’s gravestone — my grandfather who escaped Nazi Germany while most of his family was sent to concentration camps, and who then started a new life in the U.S. and enlisted to fight on behalf of his new country. ...

What can we do as individuals to protect democracy? We can vote, of course. But those of us who have the privilege of being professors or employers can potentially do more.

Democracy can die from apathy and neglect. Our forefathers and foremothers sacrificed to create and preserve our democratic institutions. It is our responsibility to protect these institutions for future generations.

It is my view that Election Day should be a national holiday. ...

Of course, policies vary, and not all professors or employers may have the discretion to cancel classes or to allow employees to leave early on Election Day. But many do. The universities that I am most familiar with all grant professors the discretion to cancel classes to allow for important professional or personal commitments. It is not uncommon for a professor to cancel a class in order to attend a conference or deliver a talk. I would argue that Election Day responsibilities are at least as important.

As for me, I will be devoting Election Day to doing volunteer voter protection. I am cancelling my class that day, both to enable my volunteering, and also in the hope that some of my students will similarly use that time for Election Day activities.

If enough professors can be convinced to cancel their classes during Election Day, we may then persuade our universities to make Election Day a school holiday. This could then lead to Election Day becoming a national holiday. ...

[M]y point is only that democracy can be fragile in ways that may not be apparent to those living during fragile moments of history. The potential stakes merit vigilance. Democratic institutions are worth sacrificing for. At least in my view, to call on professors to cancel their classes, or to call on employers to let their employees off early, is to ask for a relatively small sacrifice.

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I would be more comfortable if these appeals for voting hadn't all followed on a Republican victory. If it's important to vote, it's always important, not only when one side is down.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Nov 5, 2018 6:15:04 AM

I've had very little difficulty voting for decades now. By "very little" I mean none, other than the great burden of driving. (No one with a van ever offered to drive me to the polls for some strange reason.) There are also absentee ballots. This is getting ridiculous.

Posted by: Skipp | Nov 5, 2018 7:33:28 AM

If it takes you a whole day to vote, you're doing it wrong. Learning time management skills is an important part of growing up and adulting. Even for law students.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Nov 5, 2018 9:30:19 AM

On the other hand there is something reassuringly American about almost half the country not bothering to vote. The idea that government is really not all that important in our daily lives is quintessentially American and not entirely unhealthy.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Nov 5, 2018 1:02:08 PM

If we're going to do this for students, who predominantly have very little responsibility, then lets do it for all voters. Make everything stop for voting day. Make employees bring a "receipt" from the polling place to prove they "chose to vote." I'm really tired of the coddling that goes on with this generation. Again, how would this generation function if they had to storm the beach or parachute in on D-Day? You can bet they'd be looking for coloring books & crayons and actually learn what a "safe space" is.

Posted by: Tom N. | Nov 5, 2018 1:08:47 PM

Loyola-LA will not be holding classes tomorrow so as to allow students to serve as poll workers. In many districts, Loyola students will constitute the entire district staff.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Nov 5, 2018 3:04:24 PM

If the call is not followed by a required make-up class, it seems like more professorial self-indulgence.

Posted by: Dan Subotnik | Nov 6, 2018 4:29:10 AM

@Tom N.

Pretty sure 'this generation' is actually fighting multiple wars and has been since 2003 but thanks for displaying your monovision. No doubt you won D-Day single-handedly, mighty tax website poster! [rolls eyes]

@Everyone else,

Serious question: the title says a call for professors to cancel classes, plural. How many law profs teach more than one class in any given day? Just curious. Given the fairly common 2-2 teaching loads for tenured types, it seems a fair question.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 6, 2018 8:23:00 AM

Do the students get a refund for a day's worth of tuition? I am a CPA, I am teaching today, and I am voting. I am walking to the polls, imagine that! I am voting after work, the polls are open until 8 PM and open at 7 AM. They make it very convenient!

Posted by: Abe Carnow | Nov 6, 2018 8:23:31 AM

It really takes very little work to figure out how to fit voting into your daily routine. My impression is that this is really a get out the democratic vote effort.

Posted by: sullivan2day | Nov 7, 2018 1:41:02 PM

And, if it's raining, give students umbrellas to get to the polls, to check those of privilege with their umbrellas.

Posted by: Woody | Nov 8, 2018 10:22:56 AM