Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 29, 2020

SGA supports making Election Day a University holiday

By JULIA CHOE | November 13, 2020

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COURTESY OF CHRIS H. PARK

SGA added its signature to a letter urging universities to give students election days off.

The Student Government Association (SGA) discussed ways to further support students during future elections at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

SGA members voted to sign a letter asking for Election Day to be considered a University holiday. The letter was drafted by a coalition of Yale University campus leaders and the student body presidents of several universities. If universities agree, classes would be cancelled on Election Day, allowing students to prioritize civic engagement. 

Executive President Sam Mollin and Junior Class Senator Talal Widatalla presented the letter to SGA.

Mollin explained that he had already personally signed onto the letter prior to Election Day, but he wanted to send it to University President Ronald J. Daniels as an official SGA statement.

“I couldn’t send it to Daniels without the approval of [SGA] because if this is an official SGA statement, it needs to be voted on,” he said.

Widatalla expressed his support for signing the letter, arguing that having a day off on Election Day could increase voter turnout among students. He cited a study by Tufts University that was mentioned in the letter.

“Nearly half of all young non-voters reported that they didn’t vote because they had a conflict on Election Day,” he said. “I was really surprised by that statistic, and it really shows how effective having a day off on Election Day could be in terms of voter turnout among our demographic.”

Signing the letter is the latest of SGA’s efforts to increase students’ participation in elections and ease post-election stress. The night before Election Day, SGA sent out an email that included election resources and informed students that they were allowed to take the day off to vote as long as they emailed their professors.

Post-election, Mollin contacted Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka requesting her to ask the vice deans to ask professors to be lenient on students during election week. During SGA’s meeting, Mollin reported that this seemed to benefit some students.

He also announced that liaison pairings with student organizations will go out sometime this week.

During the meeting, Nadiyah Edwards, a resource recruiter for Thread, also gave a presentation on the organization. Thread works with high school students in Baltimore by pairing each one with a few volunteers who serve the role of supportive family members.

Edwards’ main goal was to introduce the organization to potential student volunteers from the University. She explained that Thread was founded by a biomedical engineering student from Hopkins.

“Most of our volunteers in the Thread community come from the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus community, so we really have a rich relationship with you all,“ she said. “Our relationship with Hopkins is from the very beginning of the organization.”

However, Edwards admitted that for the past year, it has been difficult to recruit new volunteers from Homewood Campus.

“I feel like we’re hitting a roadblock in connecting with Hopkins students. I could imagine that there are a couple of barriers between myself and the University culture that could be prohibiting the connection,” she said.

Junior Class Senator Grace Wang noted that while the number might seem small, Hopkins does have many students in Thread. She argued that Thread students at Hopkins do not have a proper community to connect with each other, which could prevent others from joining.

“In terms of both recruitment and retainment, it really does help to find a community,“ she said. “Even though the whole purpose of Thread is to build a community outside of Baltimore, I think it’s really useful to know other people who are in the same situation as you, who are maintaining a relationship while also maintaining academics.” 

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