University President Jim Ryan offered students advice and guidance in dealing with the results of Election Day in a University-wide email Monday afternoon.
In his email, Ryan said that it is possible that the outcome of the presidential election — and potentially several congressional races — may not be known for days or even weeks following the closure of the polls, as the United States Postal Service has reported delays in returning mail-in ballots in key swing states.
The congressional race in VA-05 — which encompasses the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County — has been rated one of the most competitive in the country and is currently classified as “leans GOP” in Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Democratic candidate Dr. Cameron Webb, a University graduate and current Director of Health Policy and Equity at the University’s School of Medicine, is running against Republican candidate Bob Good, a former Campbell County Supervisor and director of athletics development at Liberty University, to represent the district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
When the outcomes of both the presidential and congressional races do become clear, however, Ryan urged students to express their diverse ideas and views in a respectful manner.
“The diversity of ideas and perspectives people bring to U.Va. is one of our greatest strengths,” Ryan said. “We will all be better off if we approach those conversations as opportunities to learn from each other and resist the urge to diminish or demean people with whom we disagree.”
The University established a command post Friday morning in order to monitor any potential threats that may result from the results of the election. In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Chief of Police Timothy Longo said that students can expect to see an increase in law enforcement presence on Election Day, as is expected when “special events” are held on and around Grounds.
Ryan noted that regardless of the outcome, members of the community may choose to engage in peaceful protests or other demonstrations. Ryan encouraged individuals who may wish to join these demonstrations to be respectful and to keep COVID-19 guidelines in mind, such as social distancing and universal mask-wearing.
“Each of us has the ability to advocate for our principles without denigrating people we disagree with or putting the health and safety of others at risk,” Ryan said.
In closing, Ryan encouraged students to vote in a year “marked by a repeated feeling of uncertainty,” citing an email sent by Dean of Students Allen Groves over the weekend that outlined how students can vote locally on Election Day. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. — so long as an individual is in line by 7 p.m., they will be able to vote.
“This moment presents us with a few things that we can actually control,” Ryan said. “Each of us has a vote and a voice we can use to set the future course of our country.”
While some professors have taken action individually to cancel classes on Election Day, the University has opted to not change its operational schedule.
“The University encourages all students to exercise their right and responsibility to participate in elections happening wherever they are registered to vote,” University Spokesperson Brian Coy said. “Given the adjustments we have made to the fall academic calendar due to the pandemic, we will not be canceling classes on Election Day.”