Why YU Should Give Students Off on Election Day
Midterm season is undoubtedly one of the hardest and most stressful times of the college semester. With a number of cumulative tests on half of the semester’s work piled on top of regular coursework and classes, there’s often no time to breathe. Then, right smack in the middle of it all, Election Day falls on the first Tuesday after Nov. 1.
Almost everyone can recite the importance of voting, and most of us know enough history to appreciate the liberties provided to us through voting. Thank God, the movement to gain these rights was long enough ago that we can take suffrage for granted. However, that creates a serious problem.
At YU, Election Day was just like any other school day. There were no signs reminding students of the importance to vote and no reminders of when and where to go vote. There are many initiatives that we can, and should, start to change the culture of YU with regard to voting, such as voting drives and related events. Most importantly, however, I believe that YU as an institution can and should take a stand and make it substantially easier for students to vote with one simple decision: giving the day off for students who live close enough to travel to their county’s voting location.
With the bombardment of terrible breaking news happening in the U.S. and internationally, it often feels like there are just too many societal issues to combat. The question often arises: which one do I devote my time, energy and passion to? Yeshiva University is an institution with many important ideals and values. We have multitudes of clubs on campus dedicated to social and political issues, whether related to the American-Israeli relationship or about improving the Orthodox community in areas such as inclusion and diversity. While the work these clubs do is crucial and substantial, one of the foremost actions we can do as citizens of a country is to vote and let our voices be heard, and counted. Yeshiva University has the opportunity to encourage its student body as well as its faculty to actively participate in our democracy by giving us the day off — and in turn, the time required — to get to the polls.
As is discussed incessantly, the current political climate is enormously polarized and the average voter is often hard-pressed to identify a candidate who fully represents their nuanced views. The solution to this problem is to have better voter turnout, especially by those who are not extremely passionate about an issue one way or the other. Making it more convenient for students to be able to vote promotes these more moderate voters to cast a ballot. If YU wants to shape the “leaders of tomorrow,” what better way to do this than send the message that voting is a crucial aspect of democracy, and one that their student body should take part in. Voting is a fundamental civic obligation, and YU’s rhetoric about “building tomorrow” does not mean much if it is not accompanied by the strong encouragement to vote.
Many universities have fall break, with a weekend or even a full week for students to travel home for voting day. While that obviously wouldn’t make sense for YU, given all the days missed for the holidays, many YU students live locally, and would only need a day for traveling. Yeshiva University can set an example and put the weight of their institution behind the message that even during midterms season and beyond, as life becomes busier and more hectic, partaking in our nation’s democracy warrants spending some time and effort, and yes, a day off.
Photo caption: At YU, election day was just like any other school day
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons