This spring semester, the non-partisan student organization Cornell Votes is going beyond its traditional efforts to increase civic engagement, voter registration and voter turnout to campaign for a new campus holiday.
On Feb. 21, Cornell Votes officially launched its “Cornell Students for a Civic Holiday” campaign, which aims to make Election Day a University holiday, giving students the day off.
According to Isaac Chasen ’23, the Vice President of Finance of Cornell Votes, peer universities such as Columbia University, Stanford University and Brown University have already designated Election Day as a university-wide holiday.
“The reason for launching this campaign is to have Cornell be a leading voice in making democracy more accessible for college communities and to create a day of service in which all members of the Cornell community can give back to their communities,” said Patrick Mehler ’23, president of Cornell Votes.
Sagal Mohamud ’23, who is not a member of Cornell Votes, said that having the day off would make her more likely to vote on Election Day.
“With classes and meetings all day, it would be beneficial to have Election Day off, so I can guarantee I have time to go to the polls and cast my vote… I feel as if we had the day off, more people would cast their votes,” Mohamud said.
Other students have also said that their busy schedules have prevented them from voting or being politically involved in the past.
“As a student, it is really challenging to find the time in my already busy schedule to vote, and it ends up becoming a burden to figure out how I’m going to fit this in. This past Election Day, I wasn’t able to vote for this very reason,” said Carley Pinke ’23.
While Cornell encourages its students to vote, the University has never formally acknowledged Election Day as a University holiday, leaving some students questioning how much Cornell values civic engagement.
“If Cornell supports its students in being politically active, they should create time for us to do so, especially on the day where our individual voices matter most,” Pinke said.
Chasen told The Sun that his organization hopes to generate support among Cornellians with a petition, before working with the University administration and governing bodies to realize this new civic holiday.
“Our biggest strategy is to just make folks aware of this and garner support from all campus stakeholders on this issue,” Mehler said.
Although they acknowledge that establishing a University holiday takes time, Cornell Votes hopes to build their campaign this semester and that positive results will come soon.
“We hope to lay the foundation this semester through gathering support from students, student organizations and the various governing bodies at Cornell in order to see these changes occur in the near future,” Chasen said.