In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and although he never actually arrived in North
America, he is credited with discovering it. As a result, every second-Monday of October we observe Columbus Day. In an effort to promote solidarity and inclusion, the University of Rhode Island has begun the process of requesting a change in our academic calendar from “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
“We started last semester in the spring,” Student Senate Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee Riley Temple said, “Our predecessors, Vanessa Garcia and Brittany Kraft, really wanted to create a bill to make the change.”
Temple says, “There is so much going on currently with the political discourse and people feeling disjointed, so I think it is important that our university stands together and is united to create an atmosphere of inclusion, diversity and equity.”
Temple explains that they needed to have a large meeting with multiple people from all across the University so that they would be able to figure out what direction the bill should take and who to contact.
“We consulted with a few professors, some of whom their focus of study is Indigenous Peoples and we talked to a few who identify as Indigenous,” Temple said.
The Student Senate Bill went through a process of revisions and drafting, eventually it was sent to the floor to be voted on by everyone in the general Student Senate body and passed. “It has been passed as an opinion bill for the Student Senate,” Temple said, “which means that it’s our official opinion and official stance that we think that this change should happen.”
Senate then sent a memo to the Faculty Senate as a recommendation to be implemented into URI policy.
“We’re not the administration at the University so we can’t make the change,” Temple said, “But now with the meeting coming up, it’s our chance to talk with the faculty.”
This meeting with the Faculty Senate will take place next week—not in time for Columbus Day 2017—and is where the decision determining the future of the bill will be made. “An academic calendar change is a long process,” explains Temple. “It’s not guaranteed but we’re hoping it happens in upcoming years.”
“This is one small step that we can do,” says Temple. “I’m hoping that we can continue to do small things that make everyone on our campus feel welcome and at home—because this is our home.”