Cutting Out Columbus Day

Last Monday, classes at some schools across the country were cancelled in observance of Columbus Day. While it is still a federal government holiday, it is becoming less common for schools and businesses to close for Columbus Day.

The University of San Diego is one among many schools that don’t take the day off. Although we do not receive time off for the holiday, USD does offer an alternative three day weekend later in October known as Fall Holiday.

Many students question why the school opted to create its own holiday, rather than honor one already in place. According to Thomas Herrinton, the chair of the academic calendar committee, it all comes down to scheduling.

Students are not given time off for Columbus Day because it would disrupt classes with a lab section and throw off the amount of instructional hours expected for a class that meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and classes that meet exclusively on Mondays.

Instead, Fall Holiday falls on a Friday so that labs go undisturbed. Fall Holiday was originally put in place to allow professors time to grade midterms before grades needed to be posted. While the system for midterm grades has since changed, the holiday has remained.

Senior Kathlyn Avery questioned this reasoning, because she  has had  a science lab that falls on a Friday.

“If the school’s reasoning for giving us Friday off for Fall Holiday is because labs only occur Monday [through] Thursday, then their reasoning is incorrect because there are, sadly, science labs that take place on Friday afternoons,” Avery said. “Plus, Fridays are the most common day for students to already have off from classes, […] so those students don’t truly get an extra day.”

Although there is some confusion about why the switch was necessary, many students feel that substituting Columbus Day for our Fall Holiday is a fair trade off. However, as Avery pointed out, many upperclassmen and students in the business school already don’t have Friday classes. The reasoning here seems to make the holiday a moot point.

Senior Haley Cwiakala acknowledged that, while Fall Holiday is nice for some, for those without classes on Friday, it isn’t really a break.

“I appreciate the Fall Holiday so that my friends have the day off, but it would be much more helpful for travel planning to have Monday off [instead],” Cwiakala said.

Although the trade-off may be frustrating for students who already have Fridays off, others are happy that the school has chosen not to honor Columbus Day.

Senior Brooke Cowan carefully arranged her schedule as to not have Friday classes. Despite not getting an extra day off, Cowan said that she understands that Fall Holiday still is a good option and appreciates the school overlooking Columbus Day.

“I don’t have class on Fridays, [but] I understand why we weren’t given Columbus Day day off, just because of USD’s value of inclusion [standing against] Columbus’ treatment of indigenous people,” Cowan said. “As for Fall Holiday, it would be nice if we were to get Monday off as well, but I feel like I shouldn’t be too upset, as every week is pretty much Fall Holiday for me.”

In response to this concern about Columbus being honored, many communities have instead dubbed the holiday “Indigenous People’s Day.” This new tradition started in Berkeley, Calif. and has spread to many other cities.

Senior Jayda Gonzales, former president of the American Indian and Indigenous Student Organization, noted that she chooses to celebrate “Indigenous   Day  of   Resistance” rather than Columbus Day.

“As a member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, a federally recognized tribe, I celebrate Indigenous Day of Resistance in lieu of Columbus Day,” Gonzales said. “Native Americans have been here since time immemorial. Christopher Columbus did not discover the continent, but he annihilated indigenous people […]. Columbus Day celebrates the genocide of American Indian people, and my actions of resistance come from a desire to protest against the forced assimilation and massacre against Indian country. I am actively reclaiming my culture and indigenous pride through a counter-celebration of Columbus Day.”

Gonzales pointed out that all students need to understand the importance of indigenous people.

“As a student here at the University of San Diego, it is important to acknowledge that we are on Kumeyaay homeland, and we are blessed with the freedom and ability to come study and attend classes on stolen land,” Gonzales said. “I hope that our school can work to dismantle colonization within our own institution and continue to decolonize American educational systems.”

Having last Monday off would most definitely have been welcomed by many students. However, in choosing to abstain from honoring the holiday, we are standing in solidarity with the American Indian and Indigenous members of our campus community.  While an extra day off would be nice, having an inclusive and respectful campus community should be a priority.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor