Editorial: MLK unappreciated

NW Staff

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has come and gone. For most of the students at Northern Michigan University, the day probably went by unnoticed.

NMU students still had to attend classes, unlike the majority of public college students in Michigan. Eleven of the 15 public universities in the state, Michigan Tech University and Ferris State among them, include Jan. 21 on their academic calendars as a day of observance.

But there were still ways Northern could have taken notice of the occasion.

There was the outpouring of media attention on Dr. King’s life work. It’s possible that more than a few Northern students caught a glimpse of the features on the New York Times or read about Dr. King’s imprint on the current election. But it’s more probable that students went on with their lives, trying to keep up with classes and, for a growing majority, busy work schedules.

In the little free time left, perhaps students took a nap, or retired to their rooms for some much-needed relaxation.

Around the state however, university students were given the opportunity to take part in large-scale celebrations of Dr. King’s work. Michigan Tech, a university with an enrollment close to that of Northern’s, had no classes and held a candle-light vigil followed by various student-led speeches in the 1,000-seat Rosza Center.

The Multicultural Education and Resource Center has reported low attendance by Northern students at many MLK events in the past and this year.

While NMU has beefed up the MLK-themed events and now holds them throughout the week, students are still required to attend classes on MLK Day. Consequently, the events are under-attended. While it’s a little optimistic to think that Northern’s apathetic students would close their laptops, turn off the TV and give Dr. King the recognition he deserves, a day at NMU devoted to the civil rights leader would be a step in the right direction.

It’s nothing new for NMU students to request MLK Day as a day off from school, and it’s certainly been brought up by The North Wind in the past. But for a school that pushes more and more for diversity within the classroom, perhaps it’s time to visit the issue again.

NMU has made steps toward diversity, but by giving Martin Luther King, Jr. the credit he deserves and holding no classes on only one day, the university would be taking a leap toward integration – the very same thing Dr. King fought for.