Class Continues as Uncertainty Surrounding the Election Looms Large

Featured Image: Sketched by Media Editor Evelyn Ward ’21

In an election akin only to the Bush/Gore debacle of 2000 and 1876’s dispute that ended the era of Reconstruction, complications due to an historical amount of mail-in ballots have given way to a paralyzing period of uncertainty for students and teachers alike. Over 24 hours have passed since polls closed in New York, and the outcomes of crucial states have yet to be solidified. What appeared to be a Republican-dominated election has slowly favored Biden with the late counting and inclusion of absentee ballots — ballots which have consistently proved to lean more Democrat. Since each state possesses its own set of requirements and procedures for the counting of these mailed-in ballots, controversy has ensued concerning the validity of these late arrivals. 

Amidst what looks to be an impending defeat, Donald Trump is taking legal action in an attempt to throw out absentee ballots that have minute mistakes. He has also already requested to halt the counting of ballots in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, but was denied by each state’s respective court. In response, Joe Biden has announced a “fight fund” “to make sure every vote is counted.” This legal battle has kept the nation at the edge of their seat, waiting for answers to a seemingly endless election that has been branded ‘the most important of our lifetime.’

No different than the rest of the country, the tension of the election has echoed throughout the Grace community. In an email sent out to the Class of 2021, senior dean Ms. Kashyap detailed the challenges she’s been facing while awaiting the results, saying, “I definitely didn’t sleep much last night, and I continue to doubt my ability to do my job effectively today.” She continued, saying her “mood did lift when hearing voices from one of the most present communities in my life: Grace.” While it was nice to have some spaces to gather as a community amidst these unprecedented times, many students feel overwhelmed by having to attend classes and complete assignments while trying to focus on the state of our democracy. 

“I’m not balancing it well at all,” said Manavi Sinha ‘21 when asked about how she has managed to keep up with schoolwork while also following the election. “I didn’t go to bed last night, barely finished my work, and have been calculating lead margins in states and counties vs remaining uncounted votes,” she said. Emile Seidman ‘21 felt similarly, saying, “I’ve been completely consumed by the election.” While this has been difficult, Seidman admitted that “having [Tuesday] off was nice because we had time to decompress.” Though there was potential for classes to be canceled on Wednesday, the school decided to go forward and hold a normal school day. According to Balin Gerry ‘22, “teachers in my classes acknowledged the fact that it may be hard for us to focus on our school work because of the unknown results of the election.” He continued, saying “they allowed us to talk through it together in class.” Clearly, students and teachers were doing their best to make the most of the situation. 

Literature teacher Dr. Gary Schmidt expressed his admiration and sympathy for what the students have been going through not only during this election process but throughout this year as a whole:

What really struck me is how trivial the 60 minutes of class were when the next 4 years of all of our lives were hanging in the balance.  The decisions made today and in the upcoming week will affect American life — your lives—for decades to come.  I thought of that and realized the only kind thing would be to give us all a little space—to think, to reflect, to doomscroll if that’s what we really needed to do to keep our anxieties at bay.

I also came away from election week with a tremendous appreciation for you guys and all the heavy lifting you’ve been asked to do over the last year, facing challenges I never even remotely had to face as a high school student.  You are facing a divided country whose polarization is only made worse every day by social media misinformation.  On top of that, you’re being asked to navigate the heartbreaking fractures of our social contract as it concerns people of color—the protests for George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and Breonna Taylor representing the tip of a massive iceberg.  And on top of that, a global pandemic the likes of which haven’t been seen for a century.  And wondering if our country can withstand an agonizingly close election without resorting to outright violence.  All this on top of the normal challenges of school and home life, college applications, etc.   I just really admire and sympathize with all of you for everything you’re being asked to hold right now.

Although this election is unique, Grace is no stranger to dealing with political turmoil. Luiz Raible ‘17 recounts his experience as a senior at Grace after the 2016 presidential election “came as a shock to everyone.” He went on to say, “Being in a very liberal environment, a lot of students were devastated with the news of the new president. Grace was able to create a space for those students to vent and express their concerns for the future” He specifically remembers,  “how my peer leadership class spent the entire time discussing the results of the election,” while also recalling how “The faculty were very receptive and created an environment to help students through a difficult realization.” Knowing the reaction from the previous election, as well as the comforting email sent out by Mr. Davison prior to Tuesday, it seemed as if the school was prepared to handle the results of this election, or the lack thereof.  

We reached out to the head of the high-school Mr. Mahabir early Thursday morning asking him how the school has been managing the concerns of the faculty and students. Mahabir explained, “It’s just a tough time to be in school generally because there’s been already so much happening in the world and so much turmoil and we’re under already such stress with the pandemic and everything else and the country’s been in turmoil over racial justice for so long and it’s just been a very tough time. Then add to that the additional anxiety about such a high stakes election that you know is totally understandable.” 

When discussing the school schedule, he acknowledged that it’s a “tough call” as to whether or not to hold classes. Typically, Election Day at Grace is a half-day, but this year Mahabir told us how Grace “made the decision to close on election day” as “it was pretty clear to the school and to the administration and to everybody that we wouldn’t be able to focus on election day and there was no point in even coming in for half a day.” In terms of the days following the election, Mahabir explained how “Many students and faculty appreciate the comfort of being able to come into school and be with familiar faces and talk to friends and talk to colleagues as opposed to just staying home within the confines of your own house.” Even with classes being held, Mahabir knows that “if students say they want to talk about the election or talk about something, faculty respond. I think we have pretty good rapport between faculty and students.”

Clearly, the school understands the concerns raised by members of the community, yet they have made the decision to move forward, not allowing this political moment to take us away from one another. Although the next few days remain a mystery, Grace will remain strong and united while making sure to be there for one another in these times of need. 

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