From the Berkshire Eagle two years ago:
Williams College celebrates its last Columbus Day
In ending the Columbus Day off at Williams College, it came down to accounting.
Sure enough, the current calendar makes no mention of Columbus. Would you, dear reader, have predicted that a decade or two ago? Me either! What changes will come by 2029? There is no longer a reference to either Veteran’s Day or Christmas in the calendar. I am not sure when those disappeared. “Thanksgiving” is still mentioned, but for how much longer?
The faculty voted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for faculty, staff and students about six months ago.
How long before the #MeToo movement comes from MLK?
The human resources department determined the college would trade off another holiday — Columbus Day — rather than adding another holiday to the calendar.
“This was just a simple trade-off,” said Jim Reische, chief communications officer at Williams College. “We didn’t do anything with Columbus Day. It was just a three-day weekend.”
Could this be (just!) about holiday bookkeeping? Perhaps! The College is a business and needs to track vacation days.
Administrative staff still had the day off on Monday, but that will change come next year. Classes still met.
Administrative staff will still be allowed to take the Columbus Day off next year if they choose, but they’ll have to use a floating holiday day. There will be classes on that day.
“The major driver was — we needed to consider MLK Day a holiday,” Reische said. “There was a strong push to make that a day off, to recognize it.”
“Push” from whom? I doubt that the typical dining services worker cares which holiday she gets. If anything, I bet that the preferences run the other way. The vast majority of Williams employees (below the faculty) are white working class, many of them Italian-Americans. An enterprising Record reporter would interview them . . .
And isn’t a holiday in the Berkshires in the fall much more desirable than one in January?
More important to the college in terms of programming is Claiming Williams Day, which began in 2009 after a series of racist and sexist incidents on campus in 2008, Reische said.
Can we please get our history straight? There was one key incident that drove Claiming Williams.
Claiming Williams Day includes a full roster of programming exploring what it means to be a diverse and inclusive campus, he said.
“It’s much more about academic and community-building than anything we ever did with Columbus Day,” he said.
Well, sure. But aren’t these separate issues? Issue one: Which holidays does Williams officially recognize and give staff members a day off for? Issue two: What events does Williams schedule on which days? The former has little to do with the latter.
The town of Williamstown took a different direction on Columbus Day earlier this year.
In May, town meeting voters agreed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
Williamstown Elementary School labeled Monday’s holiday Indigenous Peoples Day on its website as of Monday morning.
If I were Trump, I would make a huge deal out of Columbus Day: big celebration at the White House, perhaps a speech about how Democrats consider Italian-Americans to be deplorables, an (outrageous) proposal that any town/city/state which wants federal funds must celebrate Columbus Day. There would be few better ways of motivating the voters he, and the Republicans, will need in November.
Political Science 101 at Williams taught me that, he who picks the issue to fight over, wins. In any fight between “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Trump wins easily.
Trump reads EphBlog! Last year, two hours after this post went up, he tweeted:
How long before Democratic activists start to attack Columbus?
Or maybe Trump is saving this as a fight to have in the fall of 2020?