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Give Us A Break

By Mairead B. Baker
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Next week will be very hard, even by 2020 standards.

The election, with all its associated emotional and psychological baggage, is coming to a close. After months of disastrous debates and wide distrust of polls, America will speak — though we might not figure what the election results are for several weeks. We expect that most of our campus will spend Tuesday night glued to their screens, overanalyzing the shifting results of counties, districts, and states, fretting over different possible outcomes. The following morning is bound to be politically and psychologically chaotic, a time when we, and the University, need to prioritize our mental health over school.

Regardless of the result, Wednesday will be a day of intense and overwhelming emotion for much of our community. Perhaps we'll wake up in fear and uncertainty, unsure of who will occupy the White House in January. For some members of marginalized groups, there may be joy — accompanied by a deep awareness that even their preferred candidate is hardly a steadfast ally — or maybe grief, at the prospect of another four years of a wannabe dictator eroding rights. There might not be a clear outcome at all, leading to weeks' worth of ballot counting and ever-updating Twitter feeds; or there might be a clear outcome overshadowed by concerns over the likelihood of a peaceful transfer of power.

The emotional implications of these scenarios — or, for that matter, of any possible scenario — cannot be understated.

Expecting our peers to simply go back to work on Wednesday — to dive into a lecture on late Medieval history, to dissect the glands of one toad or another, or to code for hours — is simply unreasonable. Such an approach fails to recognize that if the personal is political, so too the political is personal; that elections and ballots can have a tangible impact on our community's emotional and psychological wellbeing.

We know as much because we've been here before. In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, calls to some BGLTQ crisis and suicide prevention hotlines more than doubled; Canada's immigration site infamously crashed. Racism takes a significant psychological toll on our Black peers, which could be magnified on election night. This year, amid uncertainty over whether certain right-wing extremist militias will continue to “stand-by” in the immediate aftermath of the election, and with a raging pandemic growing worse each day, we deserve a break — a day to cool off, to reflect, to check in on each other, and to celebrate or mourn.

Two days off — one to vote, one to breathe — might seem like a tough sell. But it shouldn't. For one, there is a solid precedent at Columbia, where students have for decades enjoyed two consecutive days off leading up to the general election. Attending Zoom school might be important; however, closely following and engaging with the political landscape that trapped us in this digital hellhole is surely more important.

Of course, guaranteeing our well-being on Wednesday just to shift back to normalcy the day after would be absurd. The University must engage more fully with students' mental health and its connection to political or external events, offering comprehensive support. Sometimes tragedy, unmarked and unplanned, can also trigger a sense of loss and devastation in our student body. The blatant racism and chaos that tore across the nation this summer ought to teach us that much. Harvard needs to recognize the pain that marks such occasions by offering a response grounded in sympathy and flexibility and extensions, rather than on workaholic fixation on productivity.

Election night will be rough; the morning after might just be worse. Harvard ought to give its students a chance to process the outcome — whatever it might be.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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