By: Maria Monteros
Effective next school year, Trevecca will observe Martin Luther King (MLK) Day as an official no-class holiday.
Held on the third Monday of January, MLK Day is a federal holiday dedicated to the birth and accomplishments of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The president’s cabinet sealed their approval in late January upon discussing next school year’s academic calendar. The decision to approve the holiday came as a proposal that Nicolette Thayer, untraditional events coordinator on SGA, has been working on since October.
“The timing was coincidental. We’ve been talking and discussing and I had already made the resolve to plead the cabinet,” said Stephen Pusey, university provost. “We just knew that we were working on the calendar for the next year and we had to have it done.”
Recognizing MLK Day as a no-class holiday has been a topic of discussion for five years until recently putting the plan into full effect. Matt Spraker, associate dean of community life, had initially brought up the idea during an SGA meeting last fall.
“’To be rather than to seem’ is our motto and [Spraker] wanted it to be more than words on just a plaque. He actually wanted to ‘be’ not just ‘seem’ like we cared about race relations on campus,” said Thayer. “It wasn’t that they didn’t want to honor MLK Day, it’s just that they needed a certain amount of hours or minutes that they had to fulfill as a university.”
According to the research gathered by Thayer, out of 23 universities in Nashville, Trevecca is one of the three institutions that have classes MLK Day. In Tennessee, 172 out of 184 universities closed their campuses on MLK Day this year.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) defines a credit hour as a measure for the amount of work needed for a student’s learning outcome which includes seat hours, projects and homework. The SACSCOC oversees the credit hour distribution of all colleges under its wing including Trevecca.
Based on the Trevecca policy statement each course must complete a total of about 37.5 clock hours of formalized instruction and out-of-class work.
Until the recent changes, Trevecca chose Easter as the only no-class holiday to reach the seat time requirement.
But with the availability of modern technology, professors have now been given more flexibility to reach the required seat hours. As the calendar makes room for MLK Day, professors are encouraged to take advantage of online lectures and other kinds of assignments for credit documentation.
“In the last few years, they’ve begun to say that seat time doesn’t necessarily mean being in class anymore because of technology that allows you to have classes and assure that you’re meeting enough class time,” said Pusey.
Trevecca’s dominant residential student population meant most students come from long distances and with MLK Day celebrated just a few weeks into the semester the university wants students to settle and give them time to adjust to campus life.
“We have never recognized Labor Day in the fall holiday for not having classes and the reason we’ve never done that is that students have just arrived on campus,” said Pusey. “The difficulty with Martin Luther King Day is that it’s a very similar type of situation in the spring.”
Though the last MLK Day was a school day, some Trevecca students have already begun joining off-campus MLK events after their classes.
“[King] was the kind of man that was for all,” said Asia Norman, senior marketing business major and Namaste club president. “With Trevecca saying MLK Day is a national holiday and we’re recognizing it here on campus. Hopefully with that, it will bring awareness.”
The SGA is hoping to attract this kind of enthusiasm as they envision next year’s MLK Day as an opportunity for students to dedicate their free time to service.
“[King] made an incredible difference but his work is still not done,” said Julie Gant, senior music business major. “Even though it makes some people uncomfortable, we need to keep the things that keep this conversation in people’s minds.”