Council OKs closing for MLK Jr. Day

The First Year Experience office announced last week that the Missouri Southern President’s Council approved a proposal to close campus in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day beginning in 2014.

FYE Coordinator Natalie Bruce said the University’s Diversity Committee, which she chairs, brought the proposal to the Council in June of this year.

“MLK Jr. Day has been a top priority for the Diversity Committee, as we have many African American students, faculty and staff at MSSU,” Bruce said.

Bruce and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Pat Lipira said that Southern is one of Missouri’s only higher education institutes that does not currently close for the holiday.

Freshman graphic design major Marcus Hall, an African American student, said he wouldn’t have expected Southern’s campus to be open on MLK Day once it arrived in the Spring.

“I would have been very surprised,” he said. “Because every school I know of, they usually get off for the holiday. That’s a big, major thing. But you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Lipira said she hopes that the canceling of classes will provide faculty and staff a better opportunity to participate in the other ways Southern has always celebrated Dr. King’s accomplishments, including a day of community service and a campus-wide breakfast.

“I think most schools have that as a holiday and maybe the perception [of not closing campus] might be that we don’t value that,” Lipira said. “Where in reality, we always felt like if we were on campus there would probably be more engagement.

“I’ve always thought it was interesting because, sometimes you ask students from other schools why they’re off and they go ‘I don’t know,’ she said.

“I hope we don’t ever get to that point, but hopefully students will realize we’re off, it’s a holiday, we’re going to celebrate Martin Luther King.”

Bruce said that if other students or individuals came to the Diversity Committee with concerns over closing campus for other ethnic holidays, the committee “would be happy to look into closing.”

Lipira said she is not concerned about this creating a domino effect with too many days off if other international students would like to have holidays in their cultures recognized by campus closure.

“When you look at, and I think they did this, when you look at all the universities and what their major holidays are, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always right in there with New Year’s and Christmas, Thanksgiving. I think again, just trying to align ourselves with what’s typical.

“And you don’t see that with other places and we have fewer international students than most, so I don’t think that would be an issue.”

Lipira also said that she does not anticipate any logistical issues with taking an extra day off, saying Southern is typically in class more days than almost every other Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association school and that the required class time for credit hours is easily met even after losing the day of classes.

In the past, black students at MSSU have observed MLK Day individually by skipping classes, and Hall said he would have been tempted to do so if not for this announcement.

Another black student, Bri Harrot, freshman criminal justice major, said she is excited to have the holiday off, but that it wouldn’t have been a concern for the campus not to be closed.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be upset too much,” she said.

“But it’s like, well, that is a big part of history, so why wouldn’t you?