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Some students apathetic about MLK Day

BY
BY MICHAEL KAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 16, 2004

When he’s older, LSA freshmen John Wooster will still
recall the day when Linda Brown Thompson came to the University.
For Wooster, it was seeing history before his eyes.

“I mean it was Linda Brown, the little girl in the pea
coat who’s in every American history textbook, why
wouldn’t I go?”

The girl, who at age 7 helped ignite the movement that resulted
in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of
Education ruling, spoke Monday night in a lecture, marking the
first of many events to remember the civil rights movement at the
University. But Wooster said he wonders why the event didn’t
spark more interest among his friends.

“A lot of my friends said they were going to attend it
with me, but no one went, so I went alone,” he said.

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaching, the University has
sponsored various events and activities as part of its 17th annual
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium to bring students
together in commemoration of the civil rights movement.

The University will hold no classes Monday in an effort to
encourage students to attend many of these events, which include a
day of community service, a King memorial lecture and discussions
on race-related issues.

Students are excited, but there is a feeling among many students
that the excitement is more because of the three-day weekend and
less because of the holiday and the symposium itself. Like Wooster,
some worry that by not attending any events, students will be
missing out on opportunities to learn more about the history of the
civil rights movement. Moreover, they question if students care
about the holiday.

“Personally, I see it for them as a three day
break,” said LSA sophomore Trevor Angood.

“I think some students take it for granted. … A
decent majority overlook what went on, what the holiday is
about,” he added.

LSA junior Ryan Stack said some students don’t respect the
holiday as much as they should.

“It hasn’t gained the status it should. Some will
definitely celebrate it, but not as much as other holidays,”
he said.

Students who are not attending any events this upcoming Monday
have said they plan to take advantage of the extended weekend by
sleeping in, catching up on homework or returning home to
relax.

LSA junior Bill Begeny said he doesn’t know what he will
do on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day but doesn’t plan on
attending any University sponsored events.

“I would (attend events). It seems like something I should
do, but I’m probably going to spend the day sleeping in,
living up the day off,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he and other students do not
appreciate King or recognize the importance of having the
holiday.

“I think the University people appreciate him. He’ll
always continue to be the hero for civil rights, but convincing
college kids to attend an hour-long discussion is pretty
difficult,” Begeny said.

Other students said they already understand the meaning of the
holiday and don’t feel they need to attend the events.

“I think they understand the history, isn’t that all
there is to understand? I mean the holiday is to just remember what
he did. If you are educated on it, that’s pretty good in
itself,” LSA sophomore Bert Brown said.

Yet, there are also many who think students will attend the
events not only to remember King, but also to learn more about the
current issues dealing with race and the past history of the civil
rights movement.

LSA senior Kyle Meteyer said he usually attends an event but
added, “I think students definitely care about it. It’s
just that there’s a difference between caring about it and
participating in events.”

Meteyer said some students might feel they can be productive in
other ways, like doing homework. But he added that the symposium
and its events offer a unique experience they cannot receive any
day.

“I think it’s important that they get the
understanding of the issues more. Rather than getting it from CNN
or a textbook, they can get it from a first hand source,” he
said.

Others think students should naturally be interested in
lectures.

“We are a highly intuitive academic school. People
aren’t here just for their careers, they are here to learn,
and so many people will be interested in the events,” said
LSA junior John Lund, adding that he plans to attend some
events.

Still, some think students should take more time to remember
King and the message for which he stood.

Rackham student Meredith Mira said students lack the knowledge
that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than just a holiday, but a
day of service as well.

“It’s important to get back and recognize there is a
larger purpose … and that we can look at the holiday and
work to create a better society.”

LSA sophomore Camecia Davis said she doesn’t think many
students take the holiday for granted, but she added, “Going
to these events is supporting what (King) stands for and
recognizing that what he has done in the past and passing that
(knowledge) on to other people and future generations.”