Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s campaign sent an e-mail to supporters earlier this week, urging them to spend Election Day volunteering for the Democratic presidential nominee.
“Ask your Boss. Ask your Professor,” wrote Jon Carson, the national field director of Obama for America. “Take Election Day off and volunteer to make history.”
With support for Obama strong on campus, many University professors are anticipating low class attendance on Tuesday.
Many politically-inclined students are planning to spend the day getting out the vote, but even those who don’t volunteer might find that the process of voting will cut into their class schedule. Record registration numbers may translate into long lines at the polls, taking up a bigger chunk of students’ days that what they’d planned.
For some in-state students, the process requires driving long distances to cast ballots in their hometowns.
“In my class of about 55, there are three or four who have yet to receive their registration and have to go home to vote,” said A. Melissa Harris, an associate professor in the Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. “I told my group that they could come a little bit late or leave a little bit early if they needed.”
Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said he’s ditching class Tuesday to volunteer. He’s asking others to do the same.
“We are definitely encouraging all of our members to take the day off,” Styer said. “Hit the street, hit the phone and make sure that we win in a landslide on Tuesday.”
Brady Smith, chair of the College Republicans, said he wasn’t sure if his entire group would skip classes Tuesday, but he “we’re certainly going to encourage them to do what they can.”
Harris said that she while she won’t cancel class, she and many of her colleagues plan to adapt lessons for the day to accommodate the absent students.
“There’s a lot of desire out there for people to get out and vote,” she said. There’s going to be a more flexible attitude in the air.”
Styer said he’s told his professors that he will miss class and that they have been receptive.
“One of my professors is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and he said in the spirit of bipartisanship, he would be fine with me taking the day off,” Styer said.
Associate Political Science Prof. Jenna Bednar said she planned to bring her children to class on Tuesday because Ann Arbor Public Schools have cancelled school that day. She said she thinks students will be less focused on their classes because they’ll be following the election.
“After such a long campaign, it will be impossible not to have our minds on the election once the outcome is known at last,” Bednar said in an e-mail interview.
Natural Resources Prof. Jim Diana said that while he was urging all students to vote, he didn’t find it necessary to cancel class.
“I understand, but that’s not what we’re paid to do,” Diana said of cancelling classes.
LSA freshman Katie Cavanagh said she plans vote and attend class on Tuesday, adding that it was possible to do both.
“I just have one class on Tuesday, so I’ll just go before,” she said. After a pause, she added, “Or after.”