President Julie Sullivan shared the following in an email to the St. Thomas community.
Today, I write to share with you that the University of St. Thomas will observe Juneteenth as a holiday this year. Since Juneteenth will fall on a Saturday, we will recognize this holiday two weeks from today, on Friday, June 18, 2021.
Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865, when more than a quarter-million enslaved people living in Texas learned from arriving Union troops that they had been freed by presidential decree, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
Juneteenth is a day of reflection and hope. It symbolizes the hope that formerly enslaved people could enjoy the full experience of freedom in the future.
Recognizing and observing this day helps further demonstrate our commitment to ensuring a shared sense of belonging where all are welcomed at St. Thomas. Our Catholic mission calls us to create lasting change that upholds human dignity, achieves equity and justice, and advances the common good. With the hope that Juneteenth inspires, we will continue our work at St. Thomas and in our broader community to promote social justice and dismantle inequities of all forms.
As with all holidays, classes will not meet on Friday, June 18, unless coordinated with the appropriate dean’s office. Students who have class scheduled will hear from their professor if the class will meet. Staff members categorized as essential services staff who are required to work on holidays will receive holiday pay for hours worked as aligned with their contracts. As an alternative to holiday pay, nonunionized employees who must work on the holiday may request another day off.
I have asked Human Resources and the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) to revisit our holiday calendar and ensure that our permanent holiday schedule is as inclusive as possible. They will ask for feedback from others across the university and provide recommendations to me about long-term changes to our holiday schedule by the end of the summer.
Next week, Dr. Yohuru Williams will share an educational program developed for St. Thomas about Juneteenth. Student Affairs is also hosting an event about Juneteenth, Celebration of Resistance, from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 17. I hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about the significance of this holiday.
Thank you for sharing our community’s commitment to racial justice.