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Why the Ivy League Universities Have Given Student-Athletes the Day Off on Election Day

JUN 25, 2020 • 6 min read

In the past few weeks, the Ivy League universities have got together to promote non-partisan democracy and voter registration by designating Election Day as a day off from any required athletics activity.

On November 3, the day of the US election and in line with encouragement from the NCAA, there will be no Ivy League sporting games, contests, and matches schedules, as well as mandatory practices or meetings for student-athletes. The universities are also committed to assisting students with voting procedures, registration, online forms, and absentee ballots. The universities hope that this action will allow all student-athletes, coaches, and athletic staff to participate in Election Day activities and have the best opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Low rates of voter registration and participation in federal elections have long been an issue in the United States. Colleges and students hope that actions such as these will not only increase voter turnout for the 2020 elections but will also encourage long-term patterns of participation in elections by young voters.

The need to make election days a holiday has been voiced for some years now, but the current trend could be said to have been started by universities such as Yale, who made the announcement over 2 weeks ago.

Since then, the president of the NCAA has encouraged all NCAA member schools to give athletes the day off that day, “so athletes can vote and participate in their ultimate responsibility as citizens.” As noted above, the Ivy League conference of the NCAA has taken such action, as well as others such as the Big Sky Conference and the America East Conference.

Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris released a statement on Thursday announcing the Ivy League’s initiatives in support of voter registration, as well as supporting the Black community. Check out the statement in full below:

“It is long overdue to speak up in support of the Black community, accept responsibility and take deliberate action to condemn all forms of systemic racism and social inequality. While the Ivy League stands on a storied history, we acknowledge there were unfortunate chapters that did not advance society towards racial equality. Moving forward, it is our pledge to examine and identify structural changes needed to promote a diverse and inclusive culture in all aspects of our operations. Simultaneously, we are committed to being a visible, vocal and meaningful voice throughout college athletics.”

Initial Steps:

  • The Ivy League office closed on Friday, June 19, 2020 in recognition of Juneteenth and encouraged support of the movement to make the day a national day of reflection.
  • The Ivy League will actively promote non-partisan voter registration, including by designating Election Day (November 3, 2020) as a day off from any required athletics activity.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion representatives at each institution will be formed into a league-wide standing committee with monthly discussions supported through the league office.
  • Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris will initiate opportunities to listen to student-athletes at each institution in the league to learn about their experiences, allow them to voice concerns and communicate recommendations through a series of discussions. These conversations will begin in July 2020.
  • The League will collaborate with conference peers to influence and advocate for change including through national dialogue and committee appointments.

Ongoing steps:

  • We will foster a culture of inclusion and showcase the many ways intercollegiate athletics can break down barriers of prejudice and discrimination.
  • We can and will continue to do more.

These initial steps are designed to affect league-wide and widespread change while complementing the significant actions already taken by each of the league's member schools.

Please also read Crimson’s own statement about the Black Lives Matter movement here.

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