Temple University administrators say it’s not possible to cancel classes for the midterm election next month, but the university has signaled that it’s open to doing it in the future.
Over 4,300 members of the Temple community — students, faculty, alumni, and staff — signed the “Owls Out for Democracy” petition asking that the school cancel classes scheduled for Nov. 8, among other requests aimed at using university resources to improve voting access for students and other Philadelphians.
Jared Goldberg, a senior political science major, started circulating the petition in September and presented his proposal to administrators this month, he told Billy Penn last week.
A few other higher education institutions in Philly have already built a modified Election Day schedule into their academic calendars — including the Community College of Philadelphia, the University of the Arts, Drexel University, and Penn Carey Law. Classes also won’t meet at Temple’s Beasley School of Law, which designated Nov. 8 as a “day of civic service” for the first time this year following a push for the change last spring.
Why Temple as a whole won’t be canceling classes on Election Day this year, per an email to the petition’s thousands of supporters: It’s “just not feasible to adjust the academic calendar and all its variables at this point in the semester.”
The university, however, does plan to consider the proposal for future years.
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“It is so inspiring to see your passionate support for democracy and your desire to engage with your community on Election Day,” Chris Carey, senior associate dean of students, wrote in the message to supporters.
Following the election, Temple leadership will create a working group to consider the ideas raised in the petition as the university plans future academic years, according to Carey’s email.
It would be “premature” to offer any further details on the working group since it won’t be convened until after Election Day, said Temple spokesperson Steve Orbanek — though he confirmed that the group will “definitely” include students, faculty, staff, and administrators once it’s put together.
Additionally, the school is “continuing to engage with the organizers of the petition to make sure as many students as possible cast a ballot on or before this year’s Election Day,” per Orbanek.
The email to petition supporters directed them to other voting resources and reminded them that, “as with other circumstances,” they could talk to faculty about making up work if they’re not able to attend class on Nov. 8.
Goldberg — who said he is glad for there to be discussions about implementing his ideas in the future — still has hopes for some other action this year.
He’s asked administrators to excuse Election Day absences, encourage professors not to make assignments due on Nov. 8, and send a university-wide email detailing guidelines for individual class cancellations.
Goldberg also suggested Temple could host an election night event to celebrate participation in democracy. His other idea: use university shuttles to take students to the polls.
“We already have this thing called ‘parades [to] the polls‘ that we’re starting this year, where we’re walking” to polling places together, Goldberg said. “So why not use our buses, the same way we use them to take students … to the football games?”