By Cory Smith
Washington and Lee University undergraduates have classes on Martin Luther King, Jr., day, unlike most students in the country.
The undergraduate faculty, however, voted Monday to change its calendar by canceling undergraduate classes on MLK day starting in January 2016. The university’s law school currently observes MLK day as a holiday.
The school will still hold classes on the holiday next January.
The change comes partly in response to criticism last spring from a group of W&L law students who demanded that the entire university cancel classes on MLK Day and remove the Confederate flags from where they were displayed in Lee Chapel.
The law students sent the University’s Board of Trustees a letter demanding the school make such changes to help support minorities at W&L. They said in the letter the University was unwelcoming to minorities, citing the university’s antebellum ownership of slaves and the prominent place of Robert E. Lee in the campus culture.
President Ken Ruscio announced in July that W&L would remove Confederate flags from inside Lee Chapel. He also said in his response to the students that he was personally opposed to the idea of cancelling classes on Martin Luther King, Jr., day. He cited lectures, panels, performances and other events of the week honoring King and teaching about his legacy.
The decision, however, was put to the undergraduate faculty. University policy gives the faculty the authority to decide on changes regarding the academic calendar.
For more on what Lexington and W&L held last year in connection with MLK day, please click here.