Though Martin Luther King, Jr. has been honored with a federal holiday since 1986, this year will be the first that the University officially recognizes the holiday and gives a day off to University students, faculty, and staff.
The decision, which Provost Richard Saller said was made at the end of last spring quarter, followed discussion with various campus groups, including the Organization of Minority Student Affairs and the College Council. The issue was also of considerable importance to our staff in the union contract negotiations, Saller said. In officially celebrating MLK Day, the University joins peers such as Loyola University and Northwestern University.
While all other academic quarters have included breaks for certain national holidays, undergraduate break day has provided a day off during the winter quarter. Due to the cancellation of classes for MLK Day, undergraduate break day this year will be Friday, February 10, rather than the preceeding Monday. Administrators have not decided whether this day will be included in the academic calendar in the future, according to Susan Art, dean of Students in the College.
MLK Day will be celebrated on campus from January 9 through 16, with a memorial service planned at Rockefeller Chapel for January 16. While the keynote speaker has yet to be announced, Tamilia Reed, assistant director of OMSA and co-chair of the MLK Day planning committee, said that OMSA is seeking a strong community leader as a keynote in order to draw more Hyde Park residents [to the service].
Other activities scheduled for the weeklong celebration include a film screening, a faculty debate, and a multicultural festival.