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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tufts groups begin preparations for election night 2020

A student is pictured at the Election Extravaganza event for the 2016 presidential election at Mayer Campus Center on Nov. 8, 2016

Four years ago, Tufts was not ready for the outcome of the presidential election and the impact it had on the community. Students and faculty were shocked by the results, and the school didn’t have the resources to support people in their reactions. Coming into this year's elections, multiple campus groups are collaborating to plan a more robust and varied slate of programs.

Together, the Experimental College, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, JumboVote, Student Affairs, Office for Campus Life and the Department of Political Science have begun planning various events related to the presidential election, according to Jessica Byrnes (LA'12), Program Administrator for Tisch College. 

Traditionally, for the past eight presidential elections, the ExCollege has hosted an Election Night Extravaganza. Four years ago, this watch party became much less of a celebratory night than it had been in previous years, and Tufts, along with the rest of the country, wasn’t ready, according to ExCollege Director Howard Woolf. 

“In 2008, it was a giant party, and in 2012, it was a giant party. And in 2016, it started out as a party and quickly turned into something other than a party,” Woolf said. “[By the end of the night] I proceeded to be a kind of therapy group leader ... The reason I'm mentioning this is because I don’t want to say it scarred me, but it has stayed with me. That was the impetus for me to get in touch early with lots of colleagues around campus, to make sure that we were much better prepared this time for whatever happens.”

Byrnes had similar feelings regarding the need for early planning for this year's election night at Tufts.

“I think, you know, [in 2016] Tufts was shocked. A lot of people around the country were shocked. So it just felt like we didn't necessarily have [the] sort of bandwidth at that moment to handle a lot of the support that the community needed,” Byrnes said. “I think with that experience in the back of our minds, we wanted to come together earlier to talk about election night 2020.” 

The majority of planning is no longer focused on just election night in November, but is being distributed more evenly throughout the coming months, according to Byrnes. 

“I think it's much more intentional than past years have been ... taking a more holistic approach and just being much more intentional about how we're going about planning,” Byrnes said. 

Leading up to the election, two of the planning committee’s goals are to get people to vote and to make sure people are informed.

JumboVote, a student-run group on campus, continues to be at the forefront of making voting more accessible on campus. They have set up voter registration tables and provided shuttles to polling stations.

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement by Tisch College's Institute for Democracy and Higher Education it was found that undergraduate students at Tufts are voting at higher rates than graduate students are, JumboVote Coordinator Zachary Hertz (LA'19) said.This is not the trend nationally.

Because of this information, JumboVote is gearing a lot of its events to not just the undergraduate campus, but also the Tufts School of Medicine, according to Hertz, who also assumes responsibilities as Tisch College's Student Outreach Coordinator.

In addition to driving students to the polls, JumboVote hosts a program called Democracy Reps to help aid students in their voting. The goal of Democracy Reps is to engage communities on campus who usually aren’t engaged to vote. 

“Every [first-year] dorm, and looking to expand to moredorms next year, have one or two representatives who can answer all your questions [about] voting. They host one to two events every single month. They do door-to-door registration and really serve as the in-house representative to help you with all types of questions,” JumboVote Student Co-chair Lidya Woldeyesussaid.

JumboVote has already begun planning events for fall 2020, focusing on making sure the incoming first-year class is equipped with the necessary knowledge for the election. 

“Throughout the summer, we're going to be working on to make sure that we have a major presence at orientation and that voter registration is integrated into orientation,” Woldeyesus, a sophomore, said. “We [will] continue our efforts to be present at all of the pre-orientation programs and at the Group of Six open houses.” 

While JumboVote is making sure students are able to vote, the Department of Political Science is working on events to help individuals feel more educated on their vote. The department is holding its first panel discussion on the state of the primaries on April 2, according to Deborah Schildkraut, chair of the Department of Political Science. 

“We are going to have all of the American politics professors in the department at that event, except for Jeff Berry ... We will also have representatives from Tufts Dems, Tufts Republicans, JumboVote, Tufts for Warren, Tufts for Pete and Tufts for Bernie,” Schildkraut said in a March 2interview. “Everybody [will be] giving their perspectives on what went well, what didn't go well for their candidates and what they think about the convention coming up.”

In addition to panels, the political science department, in partnership with the Department of Psychology, is planning on bringing in a political psychologist to talk to students about research related to voting, both before and after the election, Schildkraut said.

Although the planning committee is putting more pressure on planning events before and after election night, they are still planning for the night of the election. 

On election night in 2016, there were about 2,000 students in and out of Mayer Campus Center during the course of the night, according to Woolf. The building and faculty couldn’t physically handle that amount of individuals, Woolf said. Because of this, they are now forming multiple watch parties for students to participate in this election night. 

“We're planning on having multiple watch parties happening in many, many different spaces,” Woldeyesus said. “[We also will] have a lot of expert panelists [and] political scientists from Tufts to speak about what is happening on the screen, what is happening across the country and what the results are going to show.”

The planning committee is also aware of the mental toil this election has taken and will continue to take on the community. Counseling and Mental Health Service (CMHS) will be playing a large role in helping throughout the course of the election. They are discussing the idea of having onsite therapists and counselors there on election night, according to Woldeyesus.

Additionally, CMHS will be holding support groups for students before the election to discuss their fears and emotions, Woldeyesus said. 

Members of the planning committee are bracing themselves for a range of reactions from the Tufts community, no matter the outcome of this unprecedented presidential election.

“If the president's re elected, that’s not going to be fun. If he’s defeated, it may also be a little bit weird, because who knows how he will respond. He is quite capable of saying, ‘Oh the election is rigged’ and God knows what, so it’s not going to be an easier transition either way,” Woolf said.

Schildkraut added that Tufts must be prepared for the outcome of the election and the variety of responses people will have.

“One thing that I wouldn't be totally surprised if it happened again is if we have an electoral college popular vote split like we did in 2016 ... We have never, as a country, had that happened two elections in a row, and it would’ve been the third election in the 21st century where that happened. So that's a real crisis for democracy, I think, and ... we need to be anticipating what reactions might be on campus if that happens and how to help students feel about that,” Schildkraut said.

Tufts is fiercely preparing for all outcomes of the race, even if it feels we are a long way away from November. Above all, Woldeyesus sees election night as an opportunity for celebration. 

“The cupcakes and the balloons aren't as important, but what we really want to make sure is that students feel supported before, during and after the election,” Woldeyesus said. “[It’s] a celebration of democracy and showing that ... this is what happens when we all vote, and you get to see — whether the person who [you] wanted to be elected or not wins — that your voice was counted in that process.”