Students complain of MLK schedule

Marisa Maldonado

The Rev. Billy Kyles said during his hourlong keynote speech at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall that all people -no matter how they feel about the struggle for equality – must deal with the national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

“No mail delivery, no banks, and I think the stock market may have shut down,” Kyles said.

But Northwestern students face only a three-hour shutdown. And although attendance at Monday’s celebration was about a third of what it was in 2001, some students who attended -and some who didn’t – said a full day of canceled classes would show that NU takes the holiday seriously.

“There’s no reason why this man can’t have a full day on this campus,” said Weinberg junior Johnny McGill.

This was the first year that the Evanston campus observed its commemoration between 3 and 6 p.m. For the last two years, the campus had scheduled its celebration between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Other Chicago universities, including the University of Illinois at Chicago and Roosevelt University, observe a full day.

But Speech junior Kim Guenther said some students might take a three-day weekend instead of celebrating the holiday – something she learned after talking to a friend at an East Coast school that observes a full day.

“She will be spending the entire day in the library studying,” Guenther said.

Bertha Saffo, an NU housekeeper, was surprised when she found out her daughter, a student at Aurora University, had the entire day free.

“I asked her if she was sure she didn’t have class and she said, ‘No Ma, it’s a national holiday, ‘” Saffo said. “All the schools are closed. (Except) Northwestern.”

NU’s MLK Day celebration might be more significant if it were limited to one full day, said Weinberg sophomore Jessilynn Gregory.

“As far as how I grew up, there’s always been the whole day – maybe a morning candlelight service going into a lecture about a civil rights leader,” she said. “I’d kind of like to see it that way.”

Even students who did not attend the afternoon program said a full day off would increase attendance at the celebration. Weinberg senior Mike Levitt said he would have attended events if they were spread throughout the entire day. Instead, he said he stayed in a computer lab working on a psychology experiment because he could not afford to leave.

“We had a short window and I was using the computers at the time,” Levitt said. “I think if we had a full day off, people would take it a lot more seriously.”

Speech junior Ryan Kuratko, who had his only class canceled, still attended the celebration at Pick-Staiger. Other students, such as Education sophomore LaSandra Houston, wanted to participate in even more activities such as community service.

“If there was something I wanted to do in honor or remembrance of MLK during the rest of the day, I wouldn’t be able to because I have class,” Houston said. “I can’t go out and do the things he did with just three hours off … MLK was about action – not sitting around and talking about it.”