A group of nearly 20 students, faculty and community members met Monday to discuss how Ithaca College should commemorate Martin Luther King Day next year.
The group generated a list of ideas for the celebration, including ways to encourage participation; social, cultural and intellectual activities; and a day of community service.
Deb Mohlenhoff, coordinator of service and leadership development for the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement, is a member of the MLK Celebration Committee, the group that hosted the forum. She said it was important that this meeting be open to the entire college community.
“[Since] the impetus for adjusting the calendar came from the community, we wanted to make sure we were inclusive of including the community in the decision,” she said.
President Peggy R. Williams opened the forum by explaining how MLK Day affects the academic calendar. She said last year, the college changed the academic calendar so classes will not be in session on MLK days that are the first day of the semester, though it will not be a day off and offices will be open. This will happen next year and the following year, but not from 2010 to 2013, when the semester will begin the week after MLK Day, like this year.
Williams said that if this is not successful during the next two years, there will probably be classes on Martin Luther King Day in the future. She said having a “day on” instead of a day off encourages people to focus on King and his message.
“So if we take the day off, and everyone goes shopping, how much will everyone learn then?”
Sophomore Courtney Grey said the biggest issue with celebrating MLK Day next year is getting
people to attend.
“A lot of people are going to think of it as a day off to go shopping, to relax, hang out, sleep, be hung over, stuff like that,” she said. “We’re trying to get people [to come] who are uninterested in the topic, the ones that don’t really care but need to care,” she said.
Junior Elyssa Kolber said she attended the forum because she wanted to help bring about change in the way we honor Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’ve seen a lot of progress, but there’s still so much we can do,” she said. “Every year we have kids complaining, and this was just a way to work with administration, staff and faculty,” she said.
Doreen Hettich-Atkins, coordinator of community service and leadership development and also a member of the committee, said she would have liked more people to attend the forum, but thinks the discussion was effective.
“The people who came are a good cross-section of the campus who participated [in MLK week],” Hettich-Atkins said. “[They] have a good sense of what they want to see.”
Mohlenhoff said people were respectful of each other’s ideas — ideas developed through engaging discussion.
“It certainly will be much easier to plan an array of activities for next year, given that we have so many places to start,” she said.
Sophomore Danielle Harrison said the celebration is important because there are still incidents on campus that are “unhealthy.”
“It’s not just a white and black issue,” she said. “It’s not just a race issue. It’s about coming together as a community and working together as a community. That’s why it’s important.”