Nearly two weeks ago, a collective of student leaders asked Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and UNC System leaders to pause campus operations on Election Day.
Their hope was that pausing campus operations would increase voter turnout, but they were told the University could not offer the day off due to a tight schedule this semester.
Now, many of these students are wondering why the University is encouraging faculty to pause instruction on Oct. 9 in observance of World Mental Health Day — but not on Election Day.
In accordance with the response given to student leaders concerning Election Day, campus leaders said in an email on Oct. 1 that the compressed academic calendar does not permit a full day off on Oct. 9.
Instead, campus leaders encouraged faculty to be flexible on Oct. 9 and said this pause might take the form of asynchronous classes, postponing due dates or rescheduling quizzes.
Michelle Thomas, vice chairperson of the Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity, said the encouraged pause for World Mental Health Day provides what students leaders were advocating for on Election Day.
She said that from her understanding, other students were petitioning for a mental health day before they began advocating for the day off on Election Day, which could explain why the school chose to offer this pause on Oct. 9 instead of Nov. 3.
“So it’s possible that’s why it was set, but at the same time, I do think if it was the option to choose between having a wellness day and the Election Day, it probably could have just been combined,” she said.
Oct. 9 also falls toward the midpoint of the semester, when students would typically have Fall Break, Leslie Minton, associate director of UNC Media Relations, said in an email.