UR administrators did not originally cancel classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, leaving the decision for students to attend classes on Monday optional.

Dean of the Faculty Thomas LeBlanc and Dean of the College William Green sent an e-mail to students saying, “In recognition of the national holiday celebrating the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., The College is making class attendance voluntary on Monday, January 21, 2002.”

The e-mail continued on to say that students may miss classes without penalty, so long as they make up any work that was missed.

The mailing said that in the future, when the national holiday occurs after the start of the spring semester, The College will not schedule classes for that date.

Three years ago, minority students held a sit-in in Wallis Hall, refusing to leave until their demands were met. The goal of the eventually successful sit-in was to promote cultural programming at UR, not specifically for MLK Day, said Director of Minority Student Affairs Norman Burnett.

Yet, the national holiday was an example. Burnett envisioned a community-wide event for the college ? not just a day off in January, but a day of programming along the lines of what exists at St. John Fisher College. Fisher cancels classes the morning of MLK Day, and in their place has half a day to commemorate the holiday. “It was something [the University] wanted to do,” Burnett said.

President Thomas Jackson decided to let each college decide on its own programming. Burnett agreed that this is the right thing to do.

A meeting was held between various college staff, who made the decision to cancel classes on all future MLK Days. Nancy Speck, author of the campus-wide e-mail, said that most people agree with the decision.

Faculty reaction

This year was optional according to Dean Green. “We didn’t make the decision early enough to do it this year, it was a timing issue.” Professors were given five days notice to cancel a class and rework their schedules.

Most professors supported the idea of having the day free of classes, yet all held their own classes last Monday. Losing a scheduled day of class would be hard to make up considering most professors set their syllabi well before they were notified of the conflict.

MLK Day was the first Monday of classes this semester, also making it particularly difficult for professors who teach Monday-only classes to rearrange their schedule. “Cancellation would have been the equivalent of cancelling a week of classes, which would have thrown the syllabus into chaos,” Associate Professor of Religion Daniel Beaumont said.

According to Academic Support, there were no class cancellations on the holiday.

In the future, UR promises to observe MLK Day as a university holiday. “We’ve come a long way. The school, faculty, and everyone involved seems to be happy and willing to recognize the day with speakers,” Burnett said. “I’m glad to be part of the college’s effort to recognize the King holiday. It not only holds minority significance but school-wide significance.”

Mincieli can be reached at mmincieli@campustimes.org.

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