October 27, 2020
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey; Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To Brown Community: Election Day support and resources for students and employees


Members of the Brown Community:

Civic engagement at Brown traditionally reaches its peak in the days before and after federal elections, and we expect the period surrounding Election Day on Nov. 3 to be no different. This message outlines the support and guidelines being offered to all members of the Brown community spanning the days leading up to and following the election, with a particular focus on resources for Election Day.

Brown is guided by the principle that community members in their individual capacities should fully exercise freedom of speech and civic engagement in peaceful and lawful activism. At the same time, the pandemic and necessary health protocols create unique circumstances for the ways students, staff and faculty must vote and approach other forms of civic engagement safely in the coming weeks. In addition, activities by all community members must continue to be guided by Brown’s status as a non-profit, non-partisan institution.

Please read the information below regarding the following:

-- Election Day resources, programming and support for students on election night and the days after

-- Frequently requested information about University policies and practices concerning participation in rallies, funded travel and other activities

-- Ongoing election-related programming in the days before and after the election


We know there will be a range of reactions to the events of Election Day, and our priority is to ensure that our community feels informed and supported while remaining safe.

On election night, from 5 p.m. until late in the evening and early morning, staff across many areas of the University will be onsite in four different on-campus locations. While most employees will be home when the polls close, we want students to feel confident that if they need support, there will be a significant number of staff available.

Staff will be located on the main College Green, Simmons Quad, Pembroke Green, and Wriston Quad. Students seeking support can find these staff under the pop-up tents. There will also be grab-and-go treats, including caramel and candy apples, so students are encouraged to feel free to just stop by, say hello and grab a snack. Staff volunteers are looking forward to supporting students seeking community in the safest ways possible. 

For students, faculty and staff who want to watch the election returns virtually with others in the Brown community, the Watson Institute’s Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy will host an Election Night Watch Party webinar with expert commentators from 7 to 11 p.m. The webcast will include television coverage of returns as they are reported with a series of expert commentators joining the discussion as the evening progresses. Registration is online: https://brown.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_XJubYQuUQQyaXSNTXjm26g

As in past years, the community will be invited to join together in reflection the day after the election. On Nov. 4, the Office of the President, Office of the Provost and Division of Campus Life will sponsor a virtual community event via Zoom, beginning at 7 p.m. Speakers will include the president and provost, University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson, faculty and students.

The Swearer Center is compiling information about other departments and offices that are planning to offer spaces, opportunities and events for students to discuss, debrief and find support after the election. Information about these post-election opportunities will be posted in one place on the Brown Votes website for students to easily find and access: http://brownvotes.org


While members of the community in past federal election years have participated in rallies and demonstrations on and off campus surrounding elections, we’re encouraging all community members to avoid congregating and to remain vigilant about public health guidance and complying with current municipal and state orders.

-- All COVID-19 safety policies, health protocols and guidelines for activities remain in effect throughout the election season, including standards for social distancing, mask wearing, and limiting gathering sizes and in-person events. Please consult the Campus Activity Status page on Healthy.Brown.edu for current safeguards, as well as the COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy.

-- Consistent with the travel policies currently in effect, travel outside of Rhode Island to engage in rallies or related activity cannot be endorsed, and University funds -- central or from individual departments or offices -- cannot be used to support travel or participation in political or partisan rallies, protests or demonstrations.

-- While personal and individual civic engagement is actively encouraged, University resources -- including websites and social media -- cannot be used to make political statements or otherwise engage in partisan political activity.

-- Brown’s nonprofit status does not allow instructional or professional work spaces to be used for partisan political purposes. The Sheridan Center recently announced that it has developed “Teaching During the U.S. Election” guidance at the link below to help faculty have constructive election-related conversations in courses: https://www.brown.edu/sheridan/teaching-learning-resources/inclusive-teaching/election

-- Academic decisions regarding cancelling classes can only be made by the academic deans, the provost and/or the faculty (as a body or through the Faculty Executive Committee). Election Day has been established as a University holiday, but this does not extend to days before or after the election.


How to vote:

If you haven't already voted -- either early in-person or by mail -- you can find voting information for any state at canivote.org. For Rhode Island residents, you can find your polling place, learn how to vote early or track your mail ballot at the Voter Information Center: https://vote.sos.ri.gov. For Massachusetts residents, the site is https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elevoterinfo.htm; and for Connecticut residents, visit https://portal.ct.gov/SOTS/Election-Services/Voter-Information/Voter-Fact-Sheet.

In Rhode Island any registered voter who is unable to vote on Election Day has the option to vote early at their local board of canvassers from Oct. 14  until 4 p.m. Nov. 2. For more information, see https://vote.sos.ri.gov/Elections/PollingPlaceHours

Rhode Island allows for same-day voter registration for the Presidential Election only. If you miss the voter registration deadline, you can register to vote on Election Day, but you will only be able to vote for president and vice president. You will not be able to vote in any state, local or other federal races. You can only register and vote on Election Day at the location designated by your local board of canvassers. In Providence, the location is the Dunkin Donuts Center, 1 LaSalle Square, Providence. Please be sure to remain vigilant in practicing public health protocols of wearing a mask, distancing and hand washing while voting off campus.

Election-related academic programming:

There are many lectures and election-related events taking place between now and Election Day, including a faculty webinar, “Election 2020: What if…?”, which is scheduled for 12-1:15 p.m. Oct. 29. This event brings together Brown University faculty experts to consider the election in the broader context of U.S. history; offer tools for watching election returns and understanding the range and implications of possible outcome scenarios; discuss the distinct role of African American voters in this election; and raise Constitutional issues. For more information and to register for this event, please visit this site: https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/provost/initiatives/election-2020-what-if

In addition, as a continuation of events held by academic departments and centers since the  beginning of the semester, ICERM, the Taubman Center, the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender, and the Watson Institute are among those that will continue to host election-related events leading up to and following the election. Please visit the University Events calendar, continue to read Today@Brown and consult department-level pages for listings of talks and workshops.

Election-related resources:

Several offices and groups across our community have developed election-related resources:

-- Brown Votes, a student-led initiative supported by the Swearer Center to coordinate efforts to improve voter registration, voting participation and civic engagement, has resources compiled on its website: http://brownvotes.org

-- the Brown Library Guide for Voting has been established to help Brown students, staff and faculty find FAQs, voting-related resources, and a place to ask questions: https://libguides.brown.edu/brownvotes

-- Watson Election 2020 is a list of ongoing events from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs: https://watson.brown.edu/news/explore/2020/WatsonElection2020

We hope our community will take full advantage of these resources and programming. As we continue to plan for the culmination of a contentious election season, the University is committed to providing support and space -- virtual and in-person -- for the exercise of free expression and academic freedom while we support the health, safety and well-being of our community.


Russell Carey
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy

Eric Estes
Vice President for Campus Life & Student Services