October Senate Meeting Continues Debate Over Columbus Day

by Haley Burnside

Asst. Editor

The Manhattan College Senate met for their monthly meeting this past week. Among the many agenda items, the issue of Columbus Day, which was tabled at September’s meeting, was discussed once again.

The meeting began as usual with a roll call and approval of the agenda and minutes, after which Provost William Clyde gave a brief presentation about high impact practices (HIPs).

“There’s been a lot of conversation on [HIPs] but only in a small group that talks about this stuff all the time. Unfortunately people who are not in this small group don’t necessarily know what HIPs are,” said Clyde in his opening remarks.

He continued this discussion.

“The American Association of Colleges and Universities is the big organization for liberal arts education. It is this group that started studying the teaching techniques that colleges use that are incredibly beneficial to students. They came up with ten different ones and named them high impact practices,” said Clyde.

The ten HIPs are: first-year seminars/experiences, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments/projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service learning/community based learning, internships and capstone courses and projects.

Clyde went on to show various charts and graphs compiled from research proving that HIPs are ultimately beneficial to students in terms of success in and after undergraduate years.

“If you look at the list of high impact practices, you will notice [Manhattan College] is doing a lot of them already in things like the Arches program, First Year Seminar courses, summer research grants, study abroad, and others,” said Clyde.

Following Clyde’s presentation, the Senate heard brief reports from the Educational Affairs Committee and the Campus Life Committee before moving to a discussion on last month’s main point of business.

The previous month’s Senate meeting, Robert M. Geraci, Ph.D., chair of the religious studies department proposed that the college cease its observance of Columbus Day and instead close for Election Day.

Some of the senators at the most recent meeting believe that the debate was misrepresented.

Senator Emmanuel Ago was among those who thought the meeting was characterized too strongly in its coverage.

“I believe that the Quadrangle did a good job of reporting on the details/reasoning put forth regarding Columbus day, however, from my perspective, I didn’t get a sense that the discussion was at all uncivil wherein it ‘tested the boundaries of the Senate’s decorum.’ (as noted in the article),” said Ago in an email statement.

He continued.

“Nor do I believe – again, from my perspective – that ‘The meeting then devolved into a disorganized dialogue, with senators shouting over each other and ignoring Jayawickreme’s calls for order,’” said Ago.

Ago went on to describe the debate from his perspective.

“I would characterize the discussion as passionate and engaged, admittedly, more so than other Senate meetings. I have served on the Senate for four years, so I have witnessed the full range of how engaged these meetings can be,” said Ago.

October’s debate followed a presentation by Adam Arenson, Ph.D., professor in the history department. His brief presentation provided the perception of Christopher Columbus from the perspective of historians. He also gave historical context to the creation of Columbus Day.

The debate portion began after the presentation.

The most recent debate was less passionate than the previous one. The speakers focused more on the issues of scheduling around a Tuesday off than on the political implications of the proposed change.

Lawrence Udeigwe, a professor in the mathematics departments and a senator, spoke in the debate. Udeigwe pointed out that the debate was too focused on the logistical scheduling issues rather than the social or moral reasons.

“I just think it would be more productive to tackle the more important aspect of the proposal, namely the social justice aspect, before looking at the scheduling issue,” said Udeigwe.

At the conclusion of last week’s meeting, the Senate agreed that a survey should be sent to students to gauge their thoughts on the Columbus Day proposal. It was agreed that this survey should address the logistical scheduling issues and the social justice issues as two separate components of the overall matter.

This survey will be constructed and distributed by Student Government and there is no word yet on when this will be done.

Although the proposal has been tabled twice, many of the senators believe it is a necessary method to making a decision as important as this, and a vote will occur once the issue has been properly weighed by all sides.

“I think if we put our Lasallian values first, we will come to a resolution of which we will live to be proud,” said Udeigwe.

One thought on “October Senate Meeting Continues Debate Over Columbus Day

  1. Hello,

    I’m just writing today to notify you of a correction that needs to be made to this piece. The error occurs in the fourth full paragraph of the piece.

    There is a mention of the my association, but it would appear as though our name was inadvertently inversed. It reads as of now, “American Association of Colleges and Universities,” but should be corrected to say “Association of American Colleges and Universities.”

    Thank you in advance for making that correction.


    Carrie Johnson
    Marketing and Communications Consultant
    Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
    1818 R Street, NW
    Washington, DC

Comments are closed.