Juneteenth: Now a University Holiday

The University Senate recently passed a resolution designating Juneteenth as an official University Holiday. After two years observing the day, Juneteenth has now been added to the University holiday calendar for this year and moving forward. The University calendar is always changing and evolving, but some holidays have a longer history than others. 

From the June 30, 1785 minutes. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, University Archives.

One holiday that has been on the calendar for a long time is the Fourth of July. After an eight-year hiatus because of the Revolutionary War, the newly renamed Columbia College reopened its doors in 1784. The following year, the College observed its first Fourth of July. The trustees voted to cancel the admissions examinations scheduled on the first Monday in July,  which in 1785 was July 4th, “that day being the anniversary of the Independence.” (Trustee minutes, 30 June 1785)

Then there was a holiday for the alumni (but not for current students). Starting in 1908, Alumni Day or the mid-winter reunion was held every year on Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) because it was the “only business holiday in the year when alumni can visit their Alma Mater.” Alumni would come back to campus and could join classes. This event was held until 1948. 

Somewhat more recently, Election Day became a holiday after the student-led protests during the spring of 1968. As part of the negotiations, the administration agreed to suspend classes on Election Day (and the Monday before it) so that students could involve themselves in the political process and participate in elections. 

Columbia University Calendar, 1902. Columbia University Calendars, University Archives.

Finally, some holidays are no longer observed. In the diary of John Johnson, Columbia College Class of 1792, we find that in 1788, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, was a holiday: “This day being St. Patrick’s – no school.” You can find the many volumes of Johnson’s diaries in the Columbiana Manuscripts, Item 42.