Western not helping students rock the vote

Jennifer Dawes

This coming Election Day, choices will be made. For many students, the choice will be to be a good student or be a good citizen. Why would an institution of higher learning – one that encourages its students to be well rounded – not allow the students and faculty off for Election Day?

Western will be holding hostage thousands of potential voters in classrooms. Okay, maybe hostage is too strong of a word. But it conveys how ridiculous it is to have class on Election Day.

A large portion of Western students live in Bowling Green for only nine months of the year. Their permanent residences are often in other counties and cities. For many students this is probably so they can continue to be covered under their parents health and car insurance. For those students, registering to vote here in Bowling Green is only to their disadvantage.

To be fair, let’s explore what Western might have been thinking – that all the students who intend to vote will probably go to the trouble to fill out an absentee ballot. And then, why should the university cancel classes when it’s unlikely many students will vote anyway?

Here’s why.

Students should be given every opportunity and encouragement to get involved and have a voice. If the only goal of higher education is to get a good job and make some money, then no, it is not important enough to cancel classes. But that is not what higher education is all about, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s about learning how to take responsibilty for our lives and our government. It’s about learning how to think, how to question authority and ourselves.

I admit, I’m a slacker and I was completely unaware that an absentee ballot has to be mailed in seven days before the election. I don’t know whether I should mourn or take comfort in the fact that several of my friends also forgot to send in theirs. I truly regret my stupidity, because in this election at least one of the candidates is hinting at cutting important social programs. And not to even get into what’s going on with higher education funding.

So, you tell me if it is important whether or not students should have every opportunity to vote in this election. Western, get with the program and don’t schedule classes on Election Day ever again. Educate freshmen on absentee ballots and make them available on campus. Consider even setting up polls on campus for this Tuesday, not just for the students from Bowling Green to take advantage of but also for our faculty and staff, who usually have to arrive here before 7 a.m. in order to find a parking space.

Western’s administrators made a statement about their priorities when they decided not to let students off for Election Day. The next governor of Kentucky will be elected whether or not Western students get the chance to vote. It’s sad to see a university place so little importance on civic duty.

Jennifer Dawes is a junior religious studies major from Louisville.

The opinions expressed in this commentary do not reflect the views of the Herald, Western or its administration.