To the Editor:
The Yale administration’s decision to reschedule classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a bad one, and for a greater reason than the scheduling inconvenience it causes. Martin Luther King Jr. Day has now been made the single exception to the normal pattern of classes, recess and exams for the entire academic year. But the academic year also encompasses several other official national holidays, such as Veterans Day and Presidents Day. By recognizing one holiday and not others, the University casts judgment on the relative values of these holidays and the people they venerate.
Has Martin Luther King Jr. earned an ineffaceable place of honor in U.S. history for his work to end racial segregation and inequality? Absolutely. Is he unequivocally more important to our heritage than Abraham Lincoln or the thousands of Americans who served in the world wars? Yalies have expressed admiration for King with unwavering passion, enough so to prompt significant change in University policy, but few would jump to answer this question affirmatively.
Yale’s identity and culture of values are certainly not the same as the nation’s. As an independent institution, it has the right to its own interpretation of national holidays. But as an American university that has existed longer than the country itself, Yale has an obligation to honor all who have shaped the national experience that has allowed it to flourish.
Yale must do this either tacitly, with no recognized holidays, or explicitly. But by yielding to student idealism, the administration disenfranchises, and thereby disrespects, George Washington and those who served in Vietnam.
By encouraging the University community to regard our national heroes with differential honor — indeed, with inequality — the administration even betrays King’s causes.
Peter Anthony ’04
January 17, 2002