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Bacow ‘Comfortable’ With Not Designating Election Day a University Holiday

By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Camille G. Caldera and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

Despite more than 1,250 signatures on a petition calling on University President Lawrence S. Bacow to designate Election Day — Nov. 3 — a University holiday, he declined to do so in an interview Wednesday.

Bacow said there are “lots of complexities in declaring holidays,” such as how it impacts federal research funding and “obligations on various union contracts.”

Still, he said the University has “taken a number of steps” to ensure that affiliates have the opportunity to cast ballots.

“We've encouraged our faculty to be understanding of students who need to take time off to vote,” he said. “We've also instructed supervisors to be flexible with our employees who need to take time off to vote.”

Petition organizers and signatories previously said these measures are not sufficient, because they still place the burden on students and staff to ask their instructor or manager for flexibility — a potential barrier to voting.

In response, Bacow said that “people have been voting at Harvard for a very, very long time.”

“Having talked to my predecessors, I don't think we’ve had difficulties with people feeling like they cannot vote because either they’re employed or they’re in school at Harvard,” he added. “I would not expect that to be the case now.”

But 2020 isn’t necessarily comparable to previous elections. Jack Swanson ’22, the petition organizer, has cited the pandemic and record-breaking wait times at polling places as further justification for a holiday on Tuesday.

“I don't think it's a stretch to assume that election day is going to have horrific lines,” Swanson said in an interview last week. “This is not a do-it-on-your-lunch-break kind of thing.”

Nevertheless, Bacow is content with his decision.

“I'm pretty comfortable that we've made it possible for everybody who wants to cast a ballot to do so and I hope everybody will,” he said.

He also noted that “there are lots of ways that people can vote,” including voting early and by mail.

Asked if there’s a candidate he’d prefer to see victorious next week, Bacow declined to respond.

“I've already voted, I've cast my ballot, and I exercise my rights, as every other citizen, to keep my own vote confidential,” he said. “We have an obligation and responsibility to work with whomever is elected and we will try and do so.”

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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