‘I’ve just been so overwhelmed’: Students struggle to focus on classes as Nov. 3 nears

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor

Many students engaged in election activities like phonebanking say school is on the backburner as Election Day approaches.

When senior Alejandro Arango realized his absentee ballot would not arrive in the mail on time, he bought the next plane ticket to McAllen, Texas, to vote in person on Nov. 3.

Arango, the vice president of membership for GW College Democrats and founder of GW for Bernie, said the off-chance that his absentee ballot would not count has hung over his head, driving him home and distracting him from his classes.

He said he needed to ensure he had a voice in one of the most “dramatic” elections in recent years.  

“If me and millions of other college students like me stand on the sidelines, not only are we implicitly supporting the president and implicitly supporting these conservative, antiquated policies, but we’re also not pushing for the policies that we actually care about, like the Green New Deal or campaigns finance reform,” Arango said.

Arango is one of more than 10 students who said they’ve felt “incredibly” anxious leading up to Nov. 3, causing them to frequently refresh social media for election updates and lack motivation in classes. Students said they hope professors are accommodating with assignments this week as they pour most of their time into checking election forecasts.  

Junior Jack King, the program director for Persist GW – formerly GW for Warren – said he has a short essay due Tuesday for one of his favorite classes, but he has struggled to make progress on it as he turns his attention to the election. 

King said he has phone banked every Sunday since July on behalf of progressive U.S. Senate candidates like Jaime Harrison of South Carolina. He said he “can’t look away” from his campaigning responsibilities and the national news he regularly keeps on TV because he wants to stay up to date.

“I’ve just been so overwhelmed,” King said. “And it’s hard to focus on anything else.”

King said he is excited that officials are giving students Election Day off, but he’s also nervous not to have a distraction while ballots are counted. He said after GW’s announcement, Persist GW planned a phone bank all day on Tuesday for students to campaign for candidates and stay in touch with one another as projections are made.

“It’s incredibly, incredibly anxiety-ridden,” King said. “And one of the things that makes it worse, personally for me, I feel like if I’m not text banking or phone banking every single day, I’m not doing all I can.”

Student Association Sen. Cordelia Scales, SEAS-U, said she’s been “diligently” following polls in states with tight senate races like Georgia and North Carolina to try to quell her anxieties not knowing who will win. Scales, who is currently in her hometown of Brookline, New Hampshire, said she’s studied the proposals and candidate races down her ballot to guarantee she is informed on her state’s races.

Scales, a sophomore and biomedical engineering major, said she’s felt stressed following each race and the FiveThirtyEight politics forecast. She said she’s spent time volunteering for a local candidate to ensure she can do her part as election season comes to an end. 

“I’m an engineering major,” Scales said. “So numbers make me very happy. And watching the polls go up for a candidate that you support and love is a lot of fun. And then when the poll numbers go down, that means you jump into action and phone bank for that candidate or get productive in another way to support them.”

Junior Louie Kahn, the president of GW College Democrats, said he has invested much of his time and energy into campaigning for various Democratic candidates with College Democrats. He said the group hosted phone banks four times a week leading up to the election for members to assist with various senate races and the presidential campaign.

Kahn said because he’s been so concentrated on campaigning and imagining the various scenarios that could unfold on Election Night, like anticipated protests in D.C., his work habits have changed “for the worse.” He said thinking about anything other than the election is “strange” considering how invested students have been while following each race.

The University’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities sent an email to students last week telling them to prepare for potential disruptions on or near campus during election week. Shops around the White House are also boarding up to avoid damage in case demonstrations take place. 

“This is GW – we are all very politically involved,” Kahn said. “We all have a lot invested in this election, as people who live in D.C., live in the nation’s capital and are very politically active, very passionate about a lot of issues. So, yes, it has been hard to focus, and school is definitely not at the forefront of many people’s minds.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.