If you are one of the students reluctantly trudging to class Monday, Jan. 20, despite your belief that DePaul should be observing Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day as the federal holiday that it is, would it help to know, or remember, that the university has high diversity rankings?
Or does that just make the matter more contradictory?
In 2011, the Princeton Review ranked DePaul 15th most diverse among 376 nationwide schools; it was ranked 53rd in “The Top 100 Schools for Hispanics” for its diversity in 2011; 19th in the 2012 “Best Places for Diverse Managers to Work,” by Diversity MBA Magazine.
And the theme continues… In a speech given at DePaul University’s Commitment to Diversity event, President Dennis Holtschneider stated, “DePaul University was diverse before the word ‘diversity’ came to occupy our thoughts as it does today.”
He continues on with numerous statistics and examples meant to prove DePaul’s dedication to diversity and social justice; including DePaul being the first institution to accept Catholic and Jewish students and to be one of the earliest universities to offer education to minorities, immigrants, and women.
With this seemingly sound value of diversity and social justice at DePaul, why do we find ourselves in LSP 121 or HAA 239 on a day that we should be reflecting on perhaps the biggest movement of change in the history of our nation?
With all of the celebrations that DePaul holds for Martin Luther King Jr., I think it is easy for some people to forgive a lack of observance of the holiday.
“But it’s not just like ‘here’s your one day and now you’re done’,” Charee Holloway, Assistant Director of Center for Intercultural Programs at DePaul, said. “It’s a collective and university-wide celebration and it continues on.”
The Center for Intercultural Programs will hold their 17th annual prayer breakfast to honor Dr. King Jr. on Monday. There is also a 16th annual Dr. King Jr. Commemoration and Luncheon event at the Law School, a worship celebration at the Christian Ministry, commemorative performances by the Theater School and a range of other events spanning out until mid-February.
Holloway, though, says that no matter where she is, she takes the day as an opportunity to reflect on who we are as a country and where we are going.
“It doesn’t really matter to me personally whether I have the day off or not – what matters is the spirit of the day,” Holloway said. “I’m committing the time, whether at home or at work, to reflect on my values as person.”
Irman Ali, former chair of the diversity committee and spearhead of the 2012 proposal to observe the holiday, begged to differ. In an article with Newsline Depaul, Ali said observance of the holiday “affirms to staff, faculty and students the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.”
“It sends a positive message about DePaul’s commitment to diversity and social justice,” he said. For whatever reason – be it the “message” it sends or the genuine desire to and acknowledgement of the importance of honoring Dr. King Jr. – DePaul will, starting in the 2015-2016 school year, observe the federal holiday.
So, there you have it – if you answered no to my first question, and DePaul’s diversity ranking just didn’t cut it for you, sit tight. Maybe this year’s reflection will mirror something more along the lines of all the change that still needs to take place, and how we ourselves can be agents of such.