Faith Desautels, Student Government (SG) senator for Eaton Residential College, was not able to volunteer as a poll watcher during Election Day last semester.
“I had to choose between studying for exams and being in the poll lines,” said Desautels, who also serves as SG’s vice chair for the public relations committee.
The experience prompted Desautels to partner with Tyler Franz, an SG senior class senator, and write a bill that would give students more flexibility to vote and participate on Election Day.
“It didn’t make sense to have tests that day,” said Franz, who also serves as the vice chair for the university affairs committee. “The University of Miami, as a national, leading college, should be encouraging its students to be politically active.”
They drafted the bill on the night of Election Day to be ready to present it to the SG Senate. The initiative would have limited professors from issuing exams on presidential and mid-term elections.
SG approved the bill, and it was later sent to Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely.
Over winter break, however, Whitely vetoed the bill.
“It is simply too early in the academic calendar cycle to even consider it for 2016,” she said.
Had Whitely approved the bill, though, it would have then been sent to the Faculty Senate for final approval.
SG President Nawara Alawa met with Whitely to discuss the decision. Alawa agrees with Whitely that the bill should be considered near the next presidential election in 2016 because changes in administration can occur.
“Dr. Whitely discussed the matter with me, and we came to the agreement that with a bill like this, it is more effective when passed in a specific time frame,” Alawa said. “We don’t know who is going to be leading campus administration in four years, and whether they will even be aware that the bill was passed.”
The bill will be proposed again in 2015 to ensure that “changes could be implemented for the next election more smoothly,” Alawa said.
Desautels and Franz are not the first to propose an Election Day bill.
In 2008, Colleen Clark, a junior at the University of Virginia, created an online petition that advocated for leniency from professors if students miss class to vote, according to an article reported by Inside Higher Ed, a daily online publication based in Washington, D.C. that specializes in higher education topics. Currently, UVA does not have a policy on classes during Election Day.
Other universities in Florida, such as Florida International University, University of Florida and Florida State University, did not cancel classes for Election Day and have no confirmed policies about professors’ leniency on Election Day.