Faculty approves proposal to cancel MLK Day classes

Yielding to a semester of pressure from students and faculty, this summer the Yale College faculty approved a Calendar Committee proposal to cancel classes for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The proposal, approved by the Yale Colege Calendar Committee, will move classes from the Monday holiday to the previous Friday, and that Friday’s classes will move to the first Monday of reading week. As a result of this shuffling, exams will start one day later than previously scheduled.

The movement for the cancellation of classes began last MLK Day, when a student group called the MLK Day Coordinating Committee rallied on Beinecke Plaza to push for the cancellation of classes. The event, which 150 students attended, was called a “Day-On” by organizers to commemorate King’s legacy of service. The day’s events also included a talent show and various forums with the Yale and New Haven community.

Shortly after the MLK Day activities, the Yale College Council passed a resolution supporting the cancellation of classes.

Last year was also the first year that non-essential staff were given the day-off.

As a result of continual pressure from students and faculty, the Calendar Committee began to work on proposals for the 2001-2002 calendar that would allow for the cancellation of classes on the federal holiday.

Hazel Carby, chair of the African-American studies department, drafted a letter in support of cancelling classes that was signed by a handful of faculty members.

After a number of failed proposals, which included one option that did not provide a make-up day during reading week, the May faculty meeting yielded positive results.

One of the MLK Day event’s organizers, John K. Johnson ’03, said he was not surprised by the outcome of the faculty vote “given all of the steps that went into planning the campaign.”

But Johnson said he was not expecting results so soon.

“When we first started planning this,” Johnson said, “if someone would have asked ‘Will we have the day off next year?’ I would have said, ‘Not necessarily.’”

After the decision, Pamela George, assistant dean and director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, wrote a letter to students praising the overwhelming student and faculty support.

“I must say I was proud of Yale faculty today and very proud of the students,” George wrote. “Were it not for all of you this decision could not have been realized.”

Students are looking forward to planning this year’s activities.

“I hope it’s a lasting thing [that] whatever is formed during the first years will end up being a lasting legacy that adds to Yale’s campus and traditions,” Johnson said.

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