Petition calls on USC to cancel synchronous classes on Election Day

Photo of a USC “University of Southern California” decorative sign. A bed of various flowers also sit below the sign.
Freshman Arianna Bollens was inspired to create the petition calling for USC to cancel synchronous classes on Election Day following a similar petition that had George Washington University recognize the day as a university holiday. (Beth Mosch | Daily Trojan)

A petition urging USC to cancel synchronous classes on Election Day has amassed more than 440 signatures since it was launched Friday. 

Arianna Bollens, a freshman majoring in sociology, said she was inspired to start the petition when she heard about a successful petition that led to George Washington University recognizing Election Day as a university holiday. 

“With this election being so consequential and also being so close, I’m just thinking about ways to get involved, doing different volunteer opportunities, things like that,” Bolens said. “On Friday, I decided, ‘Why not start one for USC?’”

According to the petition, hosting synchronous classes on Nov. 3 impedes the necessary civic participation from all members of the USC community, citing a  report from the U.S. Census Bureau in which eligible voters said that scheduling conflicts were one of the top two reasons they did not vote in 2016. 

Nabiha Najjar, a freshman majoring in business administration, said she saw the petition on the USC 2024 Facebook group and signed it out of concerns about balancing waiting in line at the polls with attending class.

“Nov. 3 should be a day where we just focus on voting and making sure our voices are heard,” Najjar said. “This election is super important and it’s the first election that a lot of us have any say in whatsoever.” 

The petition said that the upcoming election is “critically important” and that everyone has the right to fully participate in the political process. Bollens said that the stakes of the election are part of what motivated her to start the petition.

“A lot of people have been let down by the current administration and left behind by a lot of the policies that have been proposed and have been passed, and I think another four years of that administration is quite scary to a lot of people,” Bollens said. “Being faced with that possibility is driving a lot of people to act and to get involved in ways that they wouldn’t have thought to get involved before. That’s certainly true with me.”

Bollens said that she and her roommate sent about 300 letters to unlikely voters in swing states as part of the Vote Forward initiative. She has also been phone banking for the Biden campaign. While Bollens describes herself as “full force” behind Biden’s campaign, students from all sides of the political spectrum have stood behind the petition as well. 

Molly Davis, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said that she found out about the petition in a Republican group chat and signed it immediately. 

“I have two-, three-hour classes that go through the day, so if we have synchronous classes a lot of people are going to be at a [disadvantage] trying to go to the polls since lines are often longer on Election Day,” Davis said. “Both of my classes for Wednesday, the day after Election Day, have been pre-canceled. The professors had it in the syllabus from day one … I feel like if you’re gonna do that, why not cancel it on Election Day as well?”

Carl Kohnke, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering, said that he identifies as moderate but feels more strongly than most years about who he wants in office, which is part of why he signed the petition.

“It’s pretty clear that there’s, you know, millions of people in America who consider this election to possibly be the most important election in history,” Kohnke said. “It’s definitely going to affect the personal lives of a lot of people. So I feel like this piece of history is gonna affect so many people to the point where I feel like we should have the day just to watch and see how it plays out.”