After faculty vote, federal Election Days designated University holidays at Brown

The Brown University faculty voted on Tuesday, Sept. 8, to suspend all University exercises on Election Day during federal election years, beginning this November.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Beginning with Election Day 2020 on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Brown University will suspend classes and other University exercises and offer a paid holiday to employees on federal election days, which occur every two years.

The establishment of the new holiday follows approval from the Brown faculty at its Sept. 8 meeting to amend the Faculty Rules and Regulations and update the University’s academic calendar. It will apply in all even-numbered years, which include both presidential and midterm Congressional elections. This November’s contest will decide not only the next U.S. president, but U.S. Senate and House of Representative seats across the nation.

The decision to make Election Day a University holiday reinforces Brown’s commitment to preparing students to make lasting impacts on society, said University President Christina H. Paxson.

"At Brown, an important part of our mission is to educate and prepare students to become thoughtful and responsible members of society and to use the knowledge they’ve gained to make meaningful advancements,” Paxson said. “Of course, voting is one of the most powerful tools we have to impact society. By making Election Day a University holiday, we are helping to ensure that every member of the Brown community will engage in this important civic duty.”

Paxson expressed her gratitude to the Brown faculty for taking this important action and added that making Election Day a holiday is part of the University’s multifaceted effort to promote voting among members of the campus community.

“In the coming months we will focus on ensuring all who are eligible to vote in the upcoming election have the information and support needed to cast their ballot,” she said.

The idea to make federal Election Day a recurring University holiday originated this summer in a number of venues — from community town hall meetings to discussions among Brown’s senior leaders — by faculty, staff and administrators with a shared interest in deepening Brown’s long-standing commitment to serving the public good at a moment when social unrest has heightened community engagement around the country.

In recognition of rapidly growing support for the idea, Brown’s Faculty Executive Committee — which is responsible for proposing changes to the academic calendar — invited the full faculty to vote on a proposal to make Election Day a biannual University holiday, coinciding with federal election years.

The new holiday comes with both practical and symbolic significance for the Brown community, said Betsy Shimberg, interim director of the Swearer Center, which plays a lead role in coordinating voter registration efforts on the Brown campus as part of its public service mission.

“It shows that the act of voting is a priority for our community,” she said. “By giving staff, faculty and students this day to focus on participating in — and reflecting upon — Election Day, the University is saying how important it is for its whole community to have the opportunity to exercise this civic responsibility.”

Shimberg added that the new holiday also reinforces the University’s long-time investment in community engagement as a pillar of a Brown education.

“You can’t talk about community engagement without talking about civic engagement,” she said. “Normalizing voting for young people — showing them that voting is something we do as responsible adults in the United States — is really important because we want students to be participants in their communities, wherever those communities are, for the rest of their lives.”