Watch CBSN Live

U. Virginia Seeks To Aid Student Voters

This story was written by Alexandra Hemenway, Cavalier Daily
University of Virginia Student Council passed a resolution Tuesday night to encourage professors and faculty to excuse students from classes or exams on Election Day.

This is something that we very much care about, Council President Matt Schrimper said. It would be an absolute shame for any student to be unable to vote because of an exam or class that they would not be able to miss. The best thing we can do is to move forward with leverage that we have with this resolution and with other student organizations support and go to faculty members and department heads and make this a reality for students.

Schrimper said the resolution is designed to help those students who would like to either go home to vote or who are too busy with classes to make it to a Charlottesville polling location.

University spokesperson Carol Wood said in an interview, though, that students schedules are most likely flexible enough to allow them the opportunity to vote.

Students have flexible schedules, in fact far more flexible schedules then faculty and staff, to find the time to vote on Election Day, and we hope that they will take advantage of that flexibility, Wood said.

A number of student groups, however, thought this resolution would benefit students; the measure was supported by the College Republicans, the University Democrats, the Minority Rights Coalition and the Roosevelt Society, Vice President for Administration John Nelson said.

Weve had an ongoing dialogue with different groups on this subject, Nelson said. I think looking forward it will be crucial for us to work closely with these groups that have also endorsed and supported this resolution and to show the University community that this is a collective effort.

Before the resolution passed, Council amended the language of the resolution to mention the importance of the honor code.

One of the concerns that has been raised has been what if students take advantage of leniency? Nelson said. If we get faculty on board, what is stopping students from getting excused from class and not going to vote? Nelson said. There is no way we can guarantee that no one will do that, but we felt that in the University we talk so much about the community of trust and the honor system, and I think this would be a great area where we could say, we do have this great honor system and lets encourage students to be on their honor and lets encourage faculty members to respect students honor.

Legislative Affairs Committee Chair Patrick Dorsey, co-sponsor of the resolution, added that he thinks student honesty will not be a problem, noting that the resolution does not call for a class-free day.

I think the honor code is pretty vibrant at the University and Im not worried about students taking advantage of the trust of faculty, Dorsey said. Anyone who has a problem and wants to go home to vote, we are encouraging faculty to let them do so, but this is by no means a vacation day for the University.

Council members also stressed that while the resolution would encourage professors to excuse absences, such decisions are entirely up to professors discretion.

This is the facultys decision, Dorsey said. Student Council is recommending that faculty take action, but nothing is official until faculty say on an individual basis that you can go home to vote.

Now that the resolution has passed, Council will reach out to professors to encourage them to participate in this effort, said College Rep. Will Eden, co-sponsor of the resolution.

Well be utilizing class councils and sending letters to faculty chairs and members to make them aware of the resolution and ask for them to respond, Eden said.

Council members also hope to work on a one-on-one basis with specific professors who have scheduled exams on Election Day, Dorsey said.

If there is a particular professor who has scheduled an exam on Election Day, we look forward to working with those professors individually to help reach an understanding about whats best for all the students involved, Dorsey said.

While Council is optimistic about the future of the resolution, some students reactions suggest that Council should have considered this idea earlier in the semester.

I think it would have been a good idea if they had taken more initiative to do it sooner, third-year College student Ashley Landes said, noting that the resolution only benefits students who did not prepare in advance by making the proper arrangements to vote.

Second-year College student Alise Newman agreed that the resolution may have come too late for student voters this year.

I appreciate the thought and I think it would be a good idea for the future but I do think its too bad that it came a little too late for this year, because I too did an absentee ballot, Newman said.

Wood also emphasized that while the University recognizes Councils admirable efforts, students already have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming elections.

We certainly think Student Council has their spirit in the right place and we would encourage every student of voting age to take the opportunity to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, Wood said. The polls are open for at least 12 hours a day and we think this is adequate time to accommodate all students. Wood said.

View CBS News In