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Professors work around the election, encourage participation

November 6, 2020

On November 3, professors across all departments were faced with a challenge: how to address the election. From canceling class to walking to the polls, professors had a variety of plans for students on Tuesday and throughout the week.

Associate Professor of Biology Vladimir Douhovnikoff decided to hold class as usual on Tuesday because his class did not conflict with the polls closing.

“If I had a 7 [p.m.] class on Tuesday, there’s a good chance I would have canceled class,” Douhovnikoff said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “This is a really important event, and I’m not sure anybody would have been able to get much out of that class anyway.”

Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government Andrew Rudalevige didn’t cancel class, as Election Day provided an opportunity for students in his government and legal studies classes to see democracy in action.

“We’re living it,” Rudalevige said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “This is very much a live, ongoing case study application in practice of the historical and theoretical material that we’ve developed an understanding of.”

On Tuesday, Associate Professor of History and Chair of the History Department David Hecht focused on enabling students to participate in the election without schedule interference.

“I told students not to worry if their voting plans interfered with class time,” he wrote in an email to the Orient.

Other professors found a middle ground between encouraging student civic engagement and preserving class progress.

“I couldn’t see how I could lose that many students for Tuesday and Wednesday and still keep everyone moving forward,” said Associate Professor of English Emma Maggie Solberg in an email to the Orient. “So I revised my syllabus and made the week of the election an opt-in opportunity for students to revise and resubmit work from earlier in the semester.”

Solberg also tripled her office hours and assigned a single mandatory task.

“The only thing that I made mandatory for this week was that we all give an hour of our time to serving a worthy cause of our choice,” she wrote in an email to the Orient. “I gave my time to Bowdoin Votes.”

Rudalevige also pointed out that the Bowdoin community has a responsibility to support one  another as election results continue to unfold in the coming days.

“People are engaged with the election in many ways past the intellectual,” Rudalevige said. “Politics, as they say, is a contact sport … There are students on both sides of the electoral debate. I worry that the assumption is that trauma only occurs from a Trump victory, and I hope that people will be understanding in all directions no matter what the result. I think that our job as faculty is to care about our students, no matter what the context is. I hope that we will step up to that.”


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