Drexel Updates Holiday Policy to Formally Recognize Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples Day

Drexel Updates Holiday Policy to Formally Recognize Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples Day

As part of Drexel’s pledge to dismantle racism in University policies and practices, the University has revised its Holiday Policy to designate Juneteenth (June 19) and Indigenous Peoples’ Day (formerly Columbus Day) as recognized, annual University holidays. These holidays will be observed by all members of the Drexel community, including the College of Medicine, Drexel University Online and the Academy of Natural Sciences. In 2020, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be observed on Oct. 12.

“These changes to the University Holiday Policy reflect our efforts to recognize and dismantle oppressive systems and to acknowledge the parts of our history that have too often been ignored or discounted,” said Kim Gholston, vice president and chief diversity officer. “We hope that members of the Drexel community will not only treat these holidays as a break from work or school, but also as an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the triumphs, contributions and rich histories of Black and Indigenous people in America.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests that ensued, Drexel for the first time this year observed Juneteenth, which commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. In announcing the holiday, President Fry wrote: “Although President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was declared on January 1, 1863, slavery continued through the Civil War. It was not until June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, following the end of the war and the arrival of federal troops, that those enslaved were freed.” With the University’s observance of Juneteenth now enshrined in the Holiday Policy, Drexel has joined the many institutions that celebrate this important milestone in American history every year.

Drexel has long observed Columbus Day, a national holiday that celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. But the University acknowledges that the historical framing that Columbus “discovered” America erases the first inhabitants of this land – the Native people whose land was stolen and whose populations were decimated by the European colonizers led by Columbus and others.

This blog post from the National Museum of the American Indian explains the importance of shifting the focus from Columbus to Indigenous people: “In 1977 participants at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas proposed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day replace Columbus Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America. And it urges Americans to rethink history.”

Please review the updated Holiday Policy on the Drexel Human Resources website.