The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

STAFF EDITORIAL: Vanderbilt, help students turn out and vote

Since Vanderbilt wants its students to engage in the democratic process, professors should forgive absences during early voting and specifically on a university-wide election holiday.
Students can still register to vote by scanning QR codes on “Let’s Vote” stickers linking to the TurboVote registration site located around campus. (Hustler Staff/Madeline King)

This year’s election season has been abuzz with calls for young people to register to vote. Generation Z has been targeted as an important demographic in the 2020 presidential showdown, challenging college students to step up to the plate and perform their civic duty. The university, too, has expressed its interest in student voter turnout with its “Vanderbilt, Let’s Vote” initiative and collaboration with voter registration student organizations

Since early voting in Tennessee is beginning this Wednesday, Oct. 14, Vanderbilt should adopt policies that make it easier for students to travel to voting stations. Students are free to mail their absentee ballots from the campus post office, but Vanderbilt should also support the many students who choose to vote in-person, especially this year when there is uncertainty regarding the efficacy of an election conducted primarily by mail.

With so much stacked against us, we need support from Vanderbilt to cast our ballots. If the university wants its students to partake in our civic duties, then it should facilitate the process instead of providing an additional obstacle.

With early voting being conducted throughout the next month, the university should excuse absences related to voting. Each student should be free from penalization in a minimum of one class if they confirm their reason for absence was to vote. Many professors have already been understanding of students trying to vote, but creating a school-wide policy would ensure all students have the same opportunity.

This rule would be a welcome change, as professors forbidding students from skipping class to head to the polls could be seen as a form of voter suppression. To clearly show that Vanderbilt supports our right to vote, it should openly allow students to be excused from class in the event they must vote at a conflicting time.

It is fundamentally important that this absence forgiveness policy be extended to election day itself. November 3 should also be a school holiday. While this cuts into the fall’s already tight academic calendar, it is paramount to ensure in-person voters can do so without any academic risk. The university already allows employees to take time off of work on an election day, so it should extend the same policy to its students. 

Furthermore, Vanderbilt should help us get to the polls. On election day, provide transportation for students and employees to nearby polling stations. Our Commodore Cards already work as passes for Nashville MTA buses, but, due to the high volume of people who will be voting, additional vans and modes of transportation will be necessary. A solution could be to provide Lyft codes to students like is done during school breaks. Be alert to the needs of the student body to make travelling to polling places accessible.

If Vanderbilt is committed to fostering active citizenship in our community, it needs to go a step further and adopt policies that make this feasible. With so many hurdles already preventing voter turnout during this turbulent election year, Vandy students need the help of the university to make their voices heard. 

At the very least, don’t dock our participation grades for being the civic-minded students we are challenged to be.


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About the Contributor
Staff editorials are written in by any member of the Editorial Board, but serve to represent the views of the Editorial Board, and are therefore representative of the official Hustler opinion. These pieces serve to express the views of the paper on controversial topics—either on campus, within our country, or around the world—that the Editorial Board feels strongly about. The author for these pieces is listed as The Editorial Board. In order to publish a staff editorial, the piece must be signed off by the Editorial Board by an outstanding majority.
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