College may not hold classes on MLK Day

Starting as early as January 2016, the college may not hold class on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as it has since the holiday’s instatement in 1983. In an email sent to the student body on Wednesday, Dean of Students Liz Braun outlined the process by which the schedule change will be reviewed and potentially implemented.

The Curriculum Committee, which is composed of students and faculty, will gauge faculty preference for the proposed schedule change at the April 30th faculty meeting. Gathering this preliminary information is a prerequisite for moving forward with a final faculty vote on May 15.

The administration is interested in getting feedback from students and staff, too, in the time leading up to this vote. The email called for comments not only on the change itself, but also on how that change might look if it happens.

Once feedback has been collected from these groups, the President’s Staff will report back to the community about the final decision.

While Dean Braun was cautious about setting anything in stone, she expressed that an alteration to the academic calendar for MLK Day has been a long time coming, and that “the time is right for a change.”

She outlined two main concerns that have been brought forth by students, faculty, staff and board members, the first of which concerns the difficulty of adequately celebrating the holiday when classes are still in session. The Curriculum Committee hopes that having the day off will inspire students to still return to school the weekend before the Monday holiday (as they have been doing in previous years), and make programming to celebrate Dr. King on that day. The second concern cited was that faculty and staff with children in school face childcare obstacles, since MLK Day is a federal holiday and schools are not open.

The new schedule will have implications for the entire semester. The proposed schedule cancels Monday morning classes entirely, which bumps the total number of classes in the semester from 42 to 41, and will require that professors reschedule afternoon classes, seminars and labs for later in the semester.

Braun made it clear that nothing has been finalized yet, and that student, faculty and staff input will be indispensable to the college’s decision-making process, as it has been in bringing this issue to light in the first place. Braun also reflected on how the current schedule reflects on the college.

“In this sense, the College is out of step with most, if not all, of our local and national peers and is not affirming our own social justice mission,” she wrote. It remains to be seen how the college community will receive the proposal, but the review process is underway.

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