September 21, 2010

Changes Announced for Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Starting in 2011

Starting with the spring 2011 semester, Vanderbilt University will cancel classes university-wide in observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday each January. The long-running Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series at Vanderbilt will continue as a slate of activities targeted on the actual holiday for students, faculty and staff.

The change is, in part, motivated by requests from students, including a 2009 resolution by Vanderbilt Student Government and a meeting with student leaders at Kirkland Hall last January when the administration was formally requested to reconsider its policy on holding classes on the King holiday.

“I am impressed with the sincere approach taken by our students on this issue,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty. “With a range of opportunities for engagement available to our students and the entire Vanderbilt community, I believe this single day of remembrance will enhance all that we do to build community on campus.”

Vanderbilt staff will continue to be able to use one of their two flexible holiday days each year for the King holiday. Those who choose to work will be encouraged to participate in campus events honoring King, contingent on approval from their supervisor.

“Deepening the university’s recognition of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day creates the opportunity for our medical and nursing students, faculty and staff, to better appreciate Dr. King’s enormous contributions and his legacy,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

The King holiday falls on Jan. 17 in 2011. Activities being planned for the day at Vanderbilt include transportation for students to the Nashville MLK Day March, community service volunteer projects, “teach-ins” by faculty on themes related to the life and work of King, a screening of the entire documentary Eyes on the Prize in Sarratt Cinema and a candlelight vigil.

The 2011 keynote speaker for MLK Day will be Julian Bond, a Nashville native and longtime civil rights activist.

Vanderbilt’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series began in 1985, a year before the United States celebrated its first national day in King’s honor.