Campus closes for MLK Jr. Day

School recognizes city’s ties to Civil Rights Movement

By Julie Hirshan |

Flagler College recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday for the first time in the school’s history on Jan. 19. Students, faculty and staff were excused from classes and work for the day.

The celebration was also marked by a special presentation by civil rights activist Rev. H. K. Matthews, on Jan. 20 in the Flagler College Auditorium.

Matthews was brought to the campus through an effort by Assistant Professor Mike Butler and the Dean of Academic Affairs Alan Woolfolk.

The proposal was first introduced to the faculty senate last semester.

Dr. Jim Wilson wrote the resolution, and Dr. Hugh Marlowe, Judge Rick Poland and Dr. Darien Andreu co-sponsored the initiative.

“Among the many civil rights events that happened in St. Augustine, black students were arrested at the Ponce Hotel’s restaurant for attempting to be served. That hotel is central to the college; therefore, we should make it clear that while the college uses the hotel building it never continued its practices,” Wilson said.

The Faculty Senate unanimously agreed that something should be done to recognize the day, but the group was unsure how it should be done.

During the Oct. 8, 2008, session, following a discussion, an amendment was made to the resolution stating that, “Flagler College honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the work of St. Augustine’s residents in the Civil Rights Movement, by closing the college in observance of the national holiday and reserving the third Monday of January each year in memoriam.”

Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Arthur Vanden Houten along with Vice Chair Barbara Blonder signed a formal copy of the resolution and presented it to President William T. Abare,

“And he readily signed it,” Vanden Houten said.

Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Yvan Kelly cites a lack of air conditioning in Ponce Hall as the reason that there are no breaks for holiday observance built into the academic calendar.

In the early days of the school, all boarding students lived in Ponce Hall.

“We start in January, and we smash the gas pedal, hit the accelerator, and we have a two-day spring break, and we get done as quick as we can. And that was what set the academic calendar, trying to get out before the heat hit,” Kelly said.

Tradition has not changed.

The extra day off this semester caused a disruption in the academic schedule. The classes that were cancelled that day must make up two-thirds of that time throughout the upcoming weeks, according to Woolfolk.

Two days off in the fall for Thanksgiving, two days off for break in the spring semester, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day will continue to be holidays recognized as part of the Flagler College academic calendar.

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