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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Dec. 16, students will see nearly three years of cumulative effort come to a vote when the Faculty Senate meets. Provost Joe Glover has stated the proposal to make the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a holiday will be considered at this meeting.

Whether or not it passes, the proposal offers an example of what students need to do to impact university policy.

Policy is not changed because a student senator drafts a resolution, a party adds a platform point to its flier, or a rebel creates a Facebook event calling for a rally. Sure, all these can be catalysts for beginning discussion, but — as the Thanksgiving holiday proposal demonstrates — research, meetings and a little bit of luck is needed.

Nearly three years ago, several students spent early 2008 gauging student opinion on making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a holiday. Needless to say, the idea was quite popular and even appeared on a UF party platform. Throughout the summer months, the minority party in Student Government conducted research to see how other universities handled holidays like Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, created surveys, read university and state policy on school start dates and learned about the process for modifying the academic calendar.

In fall 2008, the majority and minority party worked together to put a question on the ballot about the Wednesday holiday – as you can imagine, it passed overwhelmingly.

Work didn’t stop when the election season ended. These dedicated students met with various associate provosts, the chairman of Faculty Senate and key individuals in Faculty Senate. Eventually, the policy passed the Academic Policy Council and was discussed in the Curriculum Committee.

In  May 2009, the policy was referred by the provost to a Calendar Task Force. As one set of student leaders graduated, another group stepped up to attend committee meetings and remind university officials about the policy’s importance.

In May 2010, the Calendar Task Force delivered its recommendation in favor of the Wednesday holiday. If you look at the report, five of the 12 data sources used were the very same research conducted in 2008.

Here we are, almost three years later, preparing for a vote on a project started in early 2008. This entire issue illustrates that commitment is needed to create the potential for change. I challenge today’s student leaders to put aside partisan disputes, look past the next election, forgo silly resolutions and get to work on issues students care about. The journey is long and winding, but it can impact future Gators.

As for myself, I will be at the Dec. 16 Faculty Senate meeting to see if the Wednesday Thanksgiving holiday is proposed and voted on. The outcome is far from certain, but seeing a project I worked on coming to fruition is worth the effort.

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