As election results were pushed back several days, so too were assignments and midterms for some classes on campus.
Following election night on Nov. 3, the abundance of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed results in several key states. According to an article published by Smithsonian last week, the uncertainty caused by extended election results, combined with the buildup of anticipation for an important event, led to widespread anxiety among voters. As Yale students juggled election updates with their classes this past week, some professors chose to lighten the workload by postponing assignment deadlines, canceling live classes and pushing back midterm dates. Others continued on with their classes as normal.
Lecturer of mechanical engineering and materials science Beth Bennett ’91 GRD ’97 wrote in an email to the News that the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning emailed faculty members a week prior to the election, suggesting that assignments due on Nov. 4 could lead to additional stress for students. In response, Bennett decided to extend the deadline of the weekly problem set for her ENAS 194 class from Wednesday to Thursday. While Bennett normally granted extensions to students who requested them in past election cycles, this year, her decision to move the due date was made in advance.
“I decided to preempt any such requests and just move the due date myself, mainly because everyone is already under enough stress due to the pandemic, and there’s no point in adding to it with a due date on the day after the election,” Bennett wrote.
Stephen Yin ’24, a first year studying remotely, mentioned that some readings for his ENGL 114 class, taught by Micah Siegel GRD ’23, were pushed back and made optional, along with a partial draft for the final paper that was originally due last week.
The biggest changes, however, were in his MATH 230 class, taught by Gibbs Assistant Professor Patrick Devlin. In that class, the weekly problem set was pushed back a full week and the synchronous lecture on Wednesday was canceled and replaced with a pre-recorded video. While Yin did not feel particularly anxious in the days surrounding the election, he appreciated the extension of the problem set deadline, noting that his peers have had a wide range of experiences.
“Everybody handles this sort of thing differently,” Yin said. “And a lot of people have been directly affected by certain policies of the previous president [Trump] and so I thought that was a very nice gesture, and I think that that was definitely the correct thing to do for Pat especially, since his class is considered one of the hardest classes at Yale.”
Yin remarked that he also enjoyed the flexibility that came with the cancelation of the synchronous class on Wednesday. He said that he was able to wake up a little later than usual that day, since his class normally starts at 9:25 a.m., after staying up late Tuesday night watching the election results.
Weston Kerekes ’24, a first year in Silliman College also taking MATH 230, echoed Yin’s comments in saying that he appreciated the lighter workload last week.
“It was really nice because we didn’t have psets due,” Kerekes said. “Last week could kind of be somewhat relaxing academically, so that we can focus our energy on the political stuff.”
Some professors have even gone a step further and pushed back midterm dates. Kerekes, who is also in PHYS 200, taught by professor Paul Tipton and professor Peter Schiffer ’88, told the News that a midterm for the class was postponed from Nov. 5 to Nov. 10.
“It was actually a very democratic process, we got to vote on it,” Kerekes said. “And we had a few options, which was, you know, either keep it or change it. We wanted to change it because we figured we’d be tired and distracted.”
Kerekes noted that he did in fact feel tired and anxious in the days following election night, as he found himself constantly checking for updates. He commented that it would have likely been difficult for him to concentrate on the midterm had it not been moved.
Schiffer wrote in an email to the News that in addition to moving the midterm, he, along with Tipton, acknowledged at the start of class on Wednesday that the election results could be affecting some members of the class.
“We noted that anyone could watch the recording of the lecture later if they were too distracted to focus,” Schiffer wrote. “We then proceeded to run the lecture as usual.”
Associate professor of music Gundula Kreuzer expressed a similar idea in an email to the News, writing that while she did not cancel any classes for her MUSI 352 class, the recorded sessions allowed students to access course material retrospectively. She also noted that in her Tuesday class, she included a discussion of George Gershwin’s “Of Thee I Sing,” a 1931 musical that “lampoons the American election process.” In addition, Kreuzer had extended the deadline for an assignment, as well as added additional office hours on Friday as an opportunity for students to connect and talk about the election.
Professor Michael Koelle, who teaches MB&B 300 along with professors Matthew Simon and Candice Paulsen, wrote in an email to the News that they postponed a synchronous lecture from Tuesday to Thursday. Koelle noted that discussion sections on Tuesday were also rescheduled.
“We initiated these changes because we were contacted by a student group that advocated for not scheduling class activities on election day,” Koelle wrote.
Other professors, however, did not adapt their classes’ course load in light of the election. Daniel Sorial ’24, a first year in Benjamin Franklin College who is in Directed Studies, told the News that there were no major changes or postponed deadlines in his classes.
Similarly, Nicholas Perez ’24, a first year in Jonathan Edwards College, said that his classes were not affected very much by the election. He noted that he felt anxious and stressed last week, particularly on Tuesday, when everyone was talking about the event and watching results come in. He remarked that many professors had a lot of course material to get through and had perhaps not considered the pressure that students were facing because of the election.
“I was definitely a little anxious, and it was hard to focus on doing work,” Perez said. “I would have benefited from maybe less work, but also just time to talk about it.”
The Associated Press called the election for former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday morning.
Zhemin Shao | firstname.lastname@example.org