To the Editor:

We are quite disappointed in the argument presented in the News’ View (“Wrong direction on MLK Day, again,” 4/11). I say “we” for this is not merely my personal opinion but one shared by a substantial portion of the student body. In the writing of this letter alone, I received the input of more than 30 Yale student leaders.

First and foremost, it is quite irresponsible on your part to trivialize the movement to observe appropriately Martin Luther King Jr. Day as merely the desire of “a handful of students.” Such a statement requires complete ignorance of the sentiment displayed by the members of countless organizations who have tirelessly demonstrated commitment to this initiative.

Yet what is even more troubling is your understanding of why so many have rallied behind this cause. This is not just an opportunity to honor a “slain civil rights icon.” This is a chance to take efforts as a community to address the universal concept of civil rights, which individuals such as King fought so hard for. It has become evident that honest dialogue about racial, cultural and economic inequality is desperately needed on this campus.

Symptoms of intolerance and insensitivity have been demonstrated in this newspaper. Thus it is Yale’s responsibility as a leading institution committed to producing the next generation of leaders to address these very issues, which all too often are ignored.

It must not be forgotten that King died fighting the very ideas of intolerance Yale once so enthusiastically espoused. There is a responsibility to have a university-wide day of commitment to pursuing honest dialogue, not because of the day’s recognition by the United States government, but because it is the University’s obligation.

If one interprets this as placing MLK Day as a holiday of greater degree of “relative merit,” that is one’s prerogative. But we view MLK Day as a holiday requiring a greater degree of the institution’s active involvement.

John Kenneth Johnson ’03

April 16, 2001