Juneteenth to become DePaul holiday pending approval, will require changes to summer session class format


Faculty Council member Andrea Kayne speaks to members in attendance at a meeting in April.

Wednesday’s Faculty Council meeting, the last of the academic year, revealed that Juneteenth is likely to become an official holiday at DePaul starting in 2023.

The news came through a scheduled item on the meeting’s agenda that would require action from Faculty Council. The holiday will conflict with the required hours for synchronous classes during The summer term, which currently has time budgeted for only one observed holiday.

“We would like to have Juneteenth observed in 2023, but the issue is that in summer session 1, there [would now be] two holidays,” Faculty Council President Sonia Soltero said. “How do we make that time up?”

The motion to make Juneteenth a university holiday is still pending approval from university administration but would bar classes from being held on June 19 at DePaul.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) gives the guideline of no less than 30 contact hours for a session each quarter. The HLC is an independent national commission in the United States that provides accreditation to American post-secondary institutions. Universities commonly refer to HLC guidelines in policy-making.

The addition of Juneteenth as a university holiday complicates scheduling for DePaul’s summer session 1, which already has Independence Day on July 4 docketed as an observed holiday. Because of this, Faculty Council must solve the issue of the lost contact time with the new holiday and propose options in order to make up instructional.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth (June 19) as a federally observed holiday. Since 1865, Juneteenth celebrations, which commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, have occurred in various parts of the country. For decades, activists and lawmakers have pushed to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday. Support gained further momentum in the summer of 2020, accompanying Black Lives Matter protests in response to the murder of George Floyd.

In response to the newly signed federal bill, DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban issued a statement supporting the recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday over Newsline last year.

Faculty Council leaders brought two options to combat the scheduling issue that Juneteenth would present as an observed holiday at DePaul. One proposed solution was to make up time through a single asynchronous class session. This could be used as an at-home exam or similar activity, but not a final exam, which is a separate session classification from the required 30 contact hours.

The second option proposed was to add 20 minutes of class time to each class session to make up for the additional day missed from Juneteenth. Faculty Council members in attendance voiced considerable opposition to this proposal. One DePaul administrator in attendance also disapproved of adding class time to each session during the Summer.

“We need to be uniform in how we’re addressing this… I’m not in favor of adding minutes,” DePaul Provost Salma Ghanem said.

Ultimately, the council decided that the policy to be added to the faculty handbook regarding Juneteenth should give guidance to make up time through “asynchronous contact hours” and the action was passed.