Northeastern denies SGA request for Election Day class cancellation

The+SGA+office+in+Curry+Student+Center.

Riley Robinson

The SGA office in Curry Student Center.

Isaac Stephens, news staff

Northeastern denied a Student Government Association request for Election Day to be declared a university holiday, arguing that the large number of students voting by mail makes the accommodation for in-person voters unnecessary.

The Student Government Association, or SGA, Senate passed the resolution nearly unanimously Monday night as part of a push by Northeastern Votes, a non-partisan SGA initiative focused on expanding voting access and participation. Northeastern spokesperson Shannon Nargi announced the university’s denial of the resolution in an email to The News on Wednesday.

“Given the large number of students who are voting by mail and voting absentee in other states, we do not think a single day off is warranted,” Nargi wrote. “Additionally, for many students living on campus or close to campus who are registered to vote in Boston, the university is making Matthews Arena available as a polling place.”

Nargi did not say if the university has data on how many students plan to vote by mail. She said that administrators “encourage all members of the Northeastern community who are eligible to vote to do so over the next two weeks or on Election Day” and asked that faculty members “offer reasonable flexibility” to students. Nargi also said university policy allows faculty and staff to take up to two hours off of work for voting “if [they] do not have sufficient time to get to the polls before or after work hours.”

Jackson Hurley, a Northeastern Votes organizer and president of Northeastern University for Biden, said class cancellations would have been an important step in ensuring students, faculty and staff are able to vote on Nov. 3.

“I think that the university has a great opportunity to set an example for the student body, you know?” said Hurley, a third-year political science major. “Young people tend to feel very left out by the political system.”

SGA President Kate Kuznetsova said the denial came to SGA leaders’ surprise, but that she’s still hopeful administrators will reconsider.

Kuznetsova, a third-year business administration and political science major, said President Joseph E. Aoun was open to the idea of an Election Day holiday when she met with him in early October, but that he wasn’t willing to give concrete support. She said he suggested planning events for students to attend if they had already voted.

Hannah Nivar, SGA’s executive director of communications and leader in Northeastern Votes, said three election day events are fully organized, with  four others being finalized. Possibilities include a lecture on voting rights and gender, a talk on Latinx political identity and a panel exploring possible outcomes of the upcoming election.

Kuznetsova said she attached plans for the events to the resolution when she emailed it to administrators, and she expects many will still happen.

Nivar, a second-year political science and international affairs major, criticized the university’s decision in an emailed statement Thursday. She pointed to a petition in support of the resolution, which Hurley said more than 1,000 students signed within 24 hours of its posting, as an indication of student need. Read her full statement in an email to The News regarding the university’s decision, along with a statement from Frank Mastroianni, SGA’s vice president for sustainability, here.

“In generally encouraging professors to be lenient for students, this does not ensure that all students are being treated equally,” Nivar wrote. “The university must understand that this is not for the sake of having a day off, but for the sake of removing institutionalized barriers that have oppressed student voices during our nation’s history.”