Article Originally Published by Brooke Colombo on North Texas Daily
The university will close Friday to honor Juneteenth, a day which commemorates the emancipation of the last slaves in Texas, President Neal Smatresk announced Monday in an official notice.
Smatresk said in the notice, the decision to commemorate Juneteenth was made in light of the national conversation regarding racism.
“The emancipation of the last Confederate slaves on June 19, 1865, is a historic event that we all should honor,” Smatresk said in the notice. “But I know it holds an even deeper meaning for the Black community in our state. It is fitting that we mark the day by declaring it a UNT holiday this year because of Black Lives Matter.”
The Daily reached out to the university to confirm whether the university plans on closing the university for Juneteenth annually, but has not yet received a response.
The notice also states classes scheduled to meet online Friday are also canceled. But facilities, such as Willis Library, will remain open as it usually would during a campus closure.
Only employees who have been designated by their supervisors as essential personnel will have to report to work on Friday.
“I’m glad that the university is recognizing Juneteenth as an important part of our history that should be celebrated and remembered,” Biochemistry junior Kennedy Mills said. “I always wondered why a day that signifies the liberation of a group of people, my people, is seen as just another day.”
Photography studio art senior Asia Youngs-Bailey said she felt like Smatresk’s announcement was disingenuous and is concerned the commemoration is only applicable for this year.
“It’s a performative act that can be seen in the language that’s used [in the notice],” Youngs-Bailey said. “It says nothing about years beyond or being committed. It’s an obvious PR stunt.”
Youngs-Bailey said she felt “insulted a bit” because she feels Smatresk is only declaring Juneteenth a university holiday since some students are calling for his resignation.
“As a Black person, I grew up with this historical date and for it to only be acknowledged to ‘look good’ is like a slap in the face,” Youngs-Bailey said. “It’s performative, but our lives and our history deserve more than that. Especially from a university that uses us for a statistic.”
Featured Image: Addressing the audience of students and faculty, UNT President Neal Smatresk begins the State of the Student Body Address. Image by Grace Davis
Source: North Texas Daily