As midterm election polls closed across the nation last night, the Associated Student Body Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for the university to cancel classes on election days in an attempt to increase voter turnout among students.
“We can set an example and give students the day off for them to vote and practice their civic duty,” ASB Director of Voter Registration and Elections Jarrius Adams said. “In doing so, the university will be sending a message to students that, in the end, they must prioritize the future of this nation over their personal commitments.”
Adams co-authored the resolution with Sens. Nick Weaver, Dalton Hull, Jack Hall, Joshua Mannery, Harper Mims, Sarah Doty, Jarvis Benson and J.R. Riojas.
“The University of Mississippi should be on the forefront of listening to student opinions and enacting policies that specifically give students a voice — not just about things going on on campus but about things going on nationwide and in the community,” Weaver said. “We could do that by canceling class on Election Day.”
Weaver said that Northwestern University and Loyola University are among several universities that cancel classes on election days.
Adams said he disagrees with the concern that canceling classes won’t actually make a difference in voter turnout. In 2016, his absentee ballot never arrived, resulting in Adams missing classes and making an eight-hour round trip in order to exercise his right to vote.
“Most students won’t do that,” Adams said. “While voting is ultimately our responsibility and ours alone, that doesn’t mean that our university can’t make an effort to make that responsibility easier, and that effort doesn’t have to stop at a table on Business Row.”
Sens. Benson and Barron Mayfield are two of several senators who strongly supported the resolution.
“I think this does two big things: makes it easier to vote and cancels class,” Mayfield said. “If you can find a student on campus who is against either of those things, please send them my way.”
One anonymous constituent criticism was delivered to the senators prior to voting, which urged them to table the resolution.
“When writing the resolution, the authors met with people who gave them insight and advice but never met with anyone at the university to see if canceling classes was even an option,” the comment read.
However, Weaver said that the authors of this resolution did reach out to university administration and met with Charlotte Pegues, the university’s registrar.
“The (Office of the) Registrar is the (office) in charge of actually changing the academic calendar, and so we sat down with (Pegues) and talked about the feasibility,” Weaver said. “She absolutely loved this resolution.”
Weaver said ASB plans to meet with Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter before the end of the semester to further discuss the steps for this resolution and a previously passed resolution calling for a polling place to be established on campus.
Adams said most students don’t know the names of their elected officials, and he sees this as a problem that can be solved simply by encouraging students to get involved in the democratic process.
“In today’s political climate, it’s more important than ever that we do celebrate those rights, that we do not take our democracy for granted,” Adams said.
Organizations who endorsed this resolution include the Black Student Union, Ole Miss NAACP, Mississippi Votes, College Republicans, College Democrats, Bipartisan Coalition and Rebels for Liberty.
For more Daily Mississippian content, sign up for our newsletter!