UT professors should cancel class on the midterm elections day

Logan Green, Columnist

In the 2020 presidential election, only 51.4% of voting age youth (ages 18-24) cast their vote. Typically, midterm elections see an even lower youth voter turnout rate. 

There are various reasons for this continued pattern of low turnout, one factor likely being the busy schedules college students have compared to some older adults. Students typically have many responsibilities that fill up their schedules, such as classes and internships.

All that can be done should be done to encourage young people to exercise their civic duties and vote in the upcoming election. An initiative professors can take is canceling class on election day to give students additional time to vote.

Isabel Carrey, a Plan II junior, thinks canceling class on election day is an idea worth implementing since it would accommodate to students’ busy schedules.

“(Students) have the barrier of time, especially in bigger elections where there are lines out the door,” Carrey said. “And for students who not only have to go to classes, but probably work jobs, work in labs, have a lot of other responsibilities … that is a barrier to voting.”

With many youth feeling apathetic toward politics, a day off from class could be the boost of encouragement they need to get them thinking about politics and voting. Professors can help by canceling class to allow time to vote can create excitement about civic duty.

Cossy Hough, assistant dean for undergraduate programs, believes professors should emphasize the importance of voting to students, as well as support and encourage them to practice their right to vote, however this may look like.

“I think that elections are a time for professors on the UT campus to discuss voting rights and the history of those rights and where those stand today as related to topics in classes,” Hough said in an email. “Then (giving) students flexibility and support in exercising their right seems even more meaningful.”

Diane Rhodes, a senior lecturer in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, shares Hough’s view.

“I don’t care if a student takes my exact class time and goes and votes,” Rhodes said. “What I care about is that they understand that I think that that’s the most important thing for them to do that day.” 

Many discredit the importance of midterm elections because they typically have much lower voter turnout than presidential elections. However, the upcoming midterm election is probably one of the most significant elections in decades. With abortion rights at stake and an ongoing gun violence epidemic in our country, students will have a chance to hold incumbent politicians accountable.

Ultimately, it is understandable that some professors might be hesitant to cancel class — students can vote early, and it’s not professors’ fault some students have busy schedules. However, by canceling class, professors can empower students to make their voices heard. 

There are roughly 50,000 students at UT. Even if only 1,000 more students voted than usual, this has the possibility of bringing about meaningful changes at all levels of government. Elections are close, and the youth can truly make or break who wins in elections.

Green is a government and social work sophomore from Cedar Park, Texas