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Election Day and Staying Safe

Dear Friends,

As this unusual semester progresses, I think most of us are growing tired — tired of the realities of the pandemic, of the grueling nature of endless Zoom classes and meetings, and of the news and speculation leading up to the election. Our original academic calendar called for what would have been a much-needed fall break last week, but our revised calendar did not allow for that time off.

I’m writing with several updates related to the election and news of what I hope will be at least a modest reprieve.

Election Day — Tuesday, Nov. 3 — will be treated as a College holiday this year. This means that classes will not be taught and that most staff members will have the day off as a paid holiday. Students should expect that faculty members may reschedule courses or offer asynchronous opportunities to make up for classes originally scheduled for next Tuesday. Essential staff members should expect to hear from their supervisors regarding how the day will be treated — but all employees will be compensated either through overtime pay or opportunities to take time off. Dining Services will follow up with residential students regarding on-campus dining options.

In addition to making it easier for everyone who needs to vote in person to do so, I hope this time will allow most of us to disconnect from work and studies for a day. If you are so moved, perhaps you can help to make sure that your neighbors and relatives have a safe plan to vote.

Voting is an essential activity, and any residential student who needs to leave campus to vote is free and encouraged to do so. Please remember to wear a mask and maintain safe physical distancing.

It is likely that we will not know the results of the election for several days, if not weeks, given the unprecedented level of mail-in voting being conducted in Pennsylvania and many other states. We expect that many in the Swarthmore community will be moved to come together in person in the days following the election — either to process the news or to celebrate or protest. We fully respect that each of you may be compelled to exercise your rights of free expression and association, even as we reconcile that with the need to keep our community safe amid a worsening global pandemic.

In consultation with public health experts, we offer the following guidance for those of you who are moved to engage in any election-related, in-person gatherings.

What faculty and staff members do on their own time is, of course, their business. We encourage all who plan to attend large, in-person gatherings to use extreme caution. Maintain safe physical distancing of at least 6 feet whenever possible; wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose; and wash your hands regularly. If your job can be done remotely, we encourage you to consider a self-quarantine for 14 days after attending any large gatherings. Those whose job must be done in person should be even more judicious when electing to attend gatherings and should be unfailing in following on-campus protocols in order to protect the campus community.

Residential students who wish to organize on-campus activities will need to observe physical distancing and masking protocols. Please work with the Office of Student Engagement ( to plan any election-related activity of 10 or more people. We will expand the permissible number of participants for outdoor gathering sizes so long as gatherings are scheduled with OSE and have appropriate safety plans. Remember that outside visitors are not permitted on campus this semester.

While we strongly encourage residential students to stay on campus, where incidence of COVID-19 remains far lower than the surrounding areas, we respect that some may be moved to leave campus for in-person, election-related gatherings. Fall 2020 residential students will not be subject to Garnet Pledge violations for participating in such off-campus activity, provided that you strictly adhere to the following guidelines: 

  • You must notify Housing ( in advance if you choose to leave campus to attend any large gatherings. 
  • You will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days after attending any such gatherings. The College can provide accommodations or, if you are able, you may leave campus early and quarantine at home or another safe location. Note that you will need to pack your belongings so that you are positioned to move directly into quarantine housing should you choose to participate in off-campus gatherings. We are establishing this protocol to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak on campus, especially as students are preparing to return home later in November.

I hope that you will appreciate the balance we have to strike in supporting civic engagement in the election process while also working to preserve the health and safety of our on-campus community.


Val Smith