On Election Day in 2020, WCU made all classes asynchronous so students would have enough time to vote. This year, however, as Pennsylvania state elections rapidly approach, there has been no announcement. In an effort to create an easier way to vote on campus, The Power in our Ballot Student of Color Engagement Initiative is asking WCU to make all classes asynchronous on Nov. 8 so attending class won’t be a factor preventing the student vote.
A student organizer of the initiative, Ananiya Jones, noted the organization did not receive any response in making this request from the university. However, they are still encouraging professors to make classes asynchronous without a direct cancellation from WCU. In an email sent to WCU faculty, the initiative stated that making classes asynchronous is their most important ask. They also suggested professors avoid making projects due on Nov. 9th, the day after the election and recommend professors engage in conversation about student experiences with voting during class time when the election is over.
Jones helped form the initiative with the help of Denice Velez, Associate Director of the Dowdy Multicultural Center. After noticing Jones’ interest in equity, Velez suggested forming a group aimed at getting students of color to vote. With the help of other students and WCU faculty, The Power in our Ballot Student of Color Engagement Initiative was formed and the group started to mobilize for the 2020 general election by holding Zoom meetings in classrooms and making phone calls.
“This group is important to me because it was ultimately successful in encouraging students to get politically engaged, which was my goal,” stated Jones of her work with the initiative. Voting has become a politicized topic in the U.S., with claims of election fraud and new strict voting laws being implemented in many states. Voter Identification laws now require voters in some states to provide photo identification. According to the ACLU, Americans without photo ID are “disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities,” because of ID availability and cost. In Georgia, it is now a crime for food and water to be handed out to those waiting in line to vote.
At WCU, voting has largely been encouraged – In the past couple weeks, registrators have been walking around campus asking students if they are registered to vote in such a number that students can often be heard complaining about being asked a dozen times in a day. However, the time to actually go out and vote has not been made officially available by WCU like it was when classes were already held online in 2020. Now, as we are back to in-person classes, with perhaps less time and availability to go vote, asynchronous classes for voting day have not been provided.
Emma Hogan is a third-year English major with a minor in Journalism. EH954390@wcupa.edu