University administrators announced in an email on Thursday that Faculty of Arts and Sciences staff would be invited to observe Juneteenth and take the afternoon off.

Celebrated each year on June 19, Juneteenth marks the date when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas were freed in 1865 — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

“Juneteenth is symbolic of the heritage and progress that generations of African Americans have made in the U.S., from contributions in culture to frameworks of revolution and protest that have been replicated historically and globally, even as we’ve seen this summer,” said Yale College Council President Kahlil Greene ’21.

The email arrived after weeks of nationwide protests and conversation about police brutality and systemic racism following the high-profile deaths of Black Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont has said that he is willing to consider naming Juneteenth — which is already officially commemorated — a legal government holiday.

FAS Dean Tamar Gendler, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley and School of Engineering Dean and FAS Dean of Science Jeffrey Brock invited FAS employees to record the afternoon as worked hours without spending their paid leave.

Several Yale Summer Session online classes slated to meet on Friday afternoon have been rescheduled. 

The email also encouraged staff to “take the opportunity to pause and consider how we as an organization and as individuals can combat racism.”

Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews also shared a list of resources for the University to learn about Juneteenth.

However, it is not yet clear whether Juneteenth will be permanently observed as an official Yale holiday — a designation that would provide all staff paid time off.

Students from the Black Student Alliance at Yale saw the decision as the University’s first step among many to address racism and support Black Americans.

“Yale’s allyship as a powerful, predominantly White institution should begin to extend beyond observing a holiday, and involve further supporting, uplifting and listening to Black students, employees and community members,” BSAY board members wrote in an email to the News. 

Among the student proposals for the University to further its commitment against racism include disarming and defunding the Yale Police Department, expanding faculty diversity, increasing its annual contribution to New Haven and supporting local Black business owners.

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu

Clarification, June 20: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify that the individuals who received afternoon leave were FAS staff. FAS faculty members typically teach on nine-month contracts and are already on release during June, July and August.

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