The University System of Georgia states that students are allowed to be excused from classes to exercise their right to vote, but some GC students and faculty members are unaware of this policy.
The confusion arises from the policy being absent in GC’s Policies, Procedures and Practices catalog. The catalog fails to mention any type of guidelines related to excuses for class to vote.
When asked to present GC’s policy on the matter, Omar Odeh, the associate vice president for Strategic Communications, cited the policy found in the University System of Georgia’s handbook.
Section 4.1.3 entitled “Student Voting Privileges” in USG’s catalog reads, “Students are encouraged to vote in all federal, state and local elections. A student whose class schedule would otherwise prevent him or her from voting will be permitted an excused absence for the interval reasonably required for voting.”
GC abides by the University System of Georgia, a government authority created to enforce a single set of unified rules for all public higher education in the state.
However, university officials did not alert students and faculty through email of the policy prior to midterm elections on Nov. 6, so many students believed that the choice to be excused was in the hands of their professors.
A senior marketing major* was denied an excused absence by her professor* for a business class on the day of midterm elections. With prior knowledge of the policy, she had planned on driving back home to vote in person.
“I emailed her the day before to notify her of my absence, and she flat out told me that there is no policy, and it won’t be excused,” she said. “Faculty needs to be more educated on this matter so this doesn’t happen to someone else.”
Ruby Zimmerman, a junior senator at-large and co-coordinator of GC’s Voter Friendly Campus Initiative, said she believes students affected can make a valid case to overturn their unexcused absence.
Zimmerman started the Voter Friendly Campus Initiative to encourage students to exercise their right to vote and to raise the voting rates at GC. Their goal was to get 50 percent or more of the student body to the polls in the most recent midterm election.
“I really value civic engagement,” Zimmerman said. “Since GC has this whole pre-eminent, liberal arts mission, then voting should be something that students should be academically excused for.”
Even Janet Hoffmann, the campus coordinator of the American Democracy Project, was unaware of the policy, citing that she didn’t believe that GC had one.
However, Odeh said, “As far as I know, it is a fairly uniform policy across all institutions in the University System of Georgia.”
No comment was given on why the policy is absent from GC’s guidelines or why students and faculty have not been directly educated on the matter.
*The student preferred her name and her professor’s name be omitted.