Georgetown Law Center students began circulating a petition on Oct. 26, asking that the administration cancel all classes and provide all faculty with paid leave on election day. As of [Nov. 1] they had collected almost 150 signatures This follows a negative response from the administration to an open letter sent on Oct. 14 regarding the same issue. The university stated in an email to the student groups who signed the letter that it will make no changes to election day policy.
One of the nine student groups to sign the open letter was Georgetown Law Students for Democratic Reform, a group which looks to promote a more participatory and equitable democracy. The group’s president, Alexander Atkins (LAW ‘17), said that the letter came following similar actions at different law campuses around the country. “The open letter was inspired by a campaign called Election RAVE [Registration, Awareness, Volunteerism, and Education] and a growing momentum of law schools canceling classes on election day to facilitate participation in the democratic process,” Atkins wrote in an email to the Voice.
Robert Van Someren Greve (LAW ‘18), vice president of the American Constitution Society, another signatory group, feels that it is important for the university to make a statement about the importance of election day. “It’s about the signal that it sends students and staff, that Georgetown Law cares about participating in the democratic process,” Van Someren Greve said.
He said cancelling classes would not only allow students to volunteer at polling places, but would also make it easier for staff to vote. “It’s especially for staff, who obviously can’t not show up to work,” Van Someren Greve said “Lines at polling places are long, and giving people the opportunity to vote and participate is important.”.
With the election less than one weeks away, signatories admit there is not much time for the petition to gain traction. “It’s hard for the administration to achieve something like this on such short notice, but at the same time they do it for snow days so it also doesn’t sound impossible,” Van Someren Greve said.
If no changes are made this year, students plan on taking advantage of the issue’s visibility to start a conversation regarding future election days. “Ultimately, we want to make sure that a process or dialogue begins to discuss Georgetown Law’s approach to future election days,” Atkins said. If Georgetown Law Center cancelled classes on Nov. 8, it would join the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, West Virginia University College of Law, and five others who have committed to cancelling classes on election day.