DePaul to honor MLK by observing federal holiday
January 21, 2013
By JoAnna Fernandez
Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, DePaul will observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and will be closed for business.
The decision, announced in December to faculty and staff, was made after much consultation and consideration. It was prompted by requests received for several years by the president’s office, which noted that the best way to honor the legacy and message of Martin Luther King Jr. would be to observe the federal holiday.
In 2010, the diversity committee of DePaul’s Staff Council — which collaborates with key university departments on topics related to staff diversity, inclusion, culture and environment — began discussing the reasons Martin Luther King Jr. Day was not observed by the university as an official holiday. The committee then began investigating what initiatives could be made to prompt the university to observe the holiday.
Imran Ali, who was chair of the diversity committee at the time, expressed gratitude for the contributions of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity and its vice president, Liz Ortiz, who helped draft a major portion of the proposal.
According to Ali, “The general consensus is that Martin Luther King Jr. Day represents a key part of the civil rights struggle in the United States. DePaul University values social justice and diversity, and recognition of this day would be in accordance with the university’s values.”
He organized a working group of staff, faculty and representatives of the Student Government Association. The Staff Council diversity committee also met with representatives from Faculty’s Council’s Committee on Academic Policy and presented the proposal.
“Once we received support from the three governance bodies, the proposal then proceeded through the university channels,” Ali says. “Liz Ortiz championed the initiative by taking it forward to leadership. They made the decision to support this, and Father Holtschneider made the announcement in December.”
Ali noted that the most difficult aspect of the project was “bringing all of the partners across the university together. It’s always challenging to find people who are dedicated enough to put in the time and energy. I think that was the main challenge. But once we had that, it just took off.”
Observance of the federal holiday will be beneficial for several reasons, according to Ali. “I think it affirms to staff, faculty and students the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement,” he says. “It sends a positive message about DePaul’s commitment to diversity and social justice.”