UC Berkeley professors, lecturers adjust classes in response to Election Day

Photo of Wheeler Lecture Hall
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Some UC Berkeley professors and lecturers canceled or postponed lectures scheduled for Election Day to accommodate voting and ease student stress.

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In light of the Nov. 3 election, some UC Berkeley professors are finding different ways to accommodate students in the classroom.

While not all professors have adjusted their class schedules this week, several have made changes such as postponing assignment deadlines to encourage students to vote and provide some relief from the national circumstances.

Alastair Iles, campus associate professor in the department of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management, said he postponed his class Nov. 3 in an effort to encourage students to partake in the election.

“I wanted to allow the students time to vote, to help get out the vote, and to avoid adding more stress to what has already been a very intense and deeply felt semester so far,” Iles said in an email.

If President Donald Trump wins, Iles plans to defer class and have a conversation with his students, which he also did in 2016, he added. Since the beginning of the semester, Iles has held two classes to discuss the implications of the Trump administration on the environment.

On the other hand, lecturer Catherine Bordel, who scheduled a midterm for Wednesday and Thursday in her Physics 8A class, said postponing the test was not feasible due to the large class size. In an effort to ease student stress, Bordel has changed her grading policy on this midterm to allow the final exam score to replace it, she noted.

“We had some concerns from students who were in distress because of various types of intimidation that they or their family were facing — like fear of social unrest and right-wing militias patrolling the area,” Bordel said.

After surveying her students last week, Kaya Oakes, continuing lecturer in college writing, stated she is holding her classes asynchronously in light of the election. Oakes has also given an extension for the paper that was originally due Wednesday in one of her classes, she added.

UC Berkeley senior Jae Manion said the sociology department has done a competent job adjusting classes for the election. Her class was made optional Nov. 3, and several of her assignments were canceled, she noted.

Not every professor, however, has gone to these lengths for the election. UC Berkeley sophomore Celeste Zepeda said she was required to attend her media studies class Tuesday and has a midterm due at the end of the week. She added that she felt extremely overwhelmed balancing her schoolwork and keeping up with the election.

“With the stress of this specific election — the polarization of Biden versus Trump — everyone’s in a very high anxiety, high stress situation,” Zepeda said. “I think it’s irresponsible to not take that into consideration when making your lesson plans for the semester.”

Oakes said she believes that Election Day should be made a noninstructional day at UC Berkeley. According to Oakes, just as employers are required to give time for employees to vote, faculty should also allow that flexibility to students.

Bordel also said she supports Election Day becoming a noninstructional holiday.

“I think that students and instructors have more time to actually go if they decide to vote in person — but I think that it’s also a question of mental availability on a day that can be really tense,” Bordel said.

Contact Kelly Suth at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kellyannesuth.