The following announcement about changes to the University of Oregon’s paid holiday schedule was issued by DEI and Human Resources on June 9, 2021.
UO will observe Juneteenth and Veterans Day
Changes to holiday schedule begin immediately and apply to future years
The University of Oregon is pleased to announce that it will be adding Juneteenth and Veterans Day to its holiday observance schedule. The decision to expand the UO holiday schedule advances our commitment to equity and inclusion, recognizes the sacrifices of our veterans, and aligns with recent legislature-approved state holidays.
The addition of Juneteenth and Veterans Day to the UO holiday schedule is effective immediately and applies to this year and future years. The university will close in observance of the holidays and eligible employees will receive holiday pay in accordance with policy and collective bargaining agreements.
In recognition of Juneteenth, the university will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18, this year. President Michael H. Schill chose to include Juneteenth as an observed holiday to recognize the date’s importance in US history and to underscore the university’s commitment to inclusion and the dismantling of systemic racism.
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865, two years after adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a long-standing African American holiday, honoring Black history, culture, resistance, and resilience.
Charise Cheney, Associate Professor of History in Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, teaches about the history of Juneteenth in her classes and offers the following sentiment:
“Juneteenth provides us with a moment to both celebrate and reflect upon our histories as African-descended people in America. In the wake of a turbulent year, let us be reminded that empowered whites’ grip on [discriminatory] power can be illusive. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed the enslaved in Confederate states that were in active resistance to the Union. Even so, those in Texas received word of their freedom over two years later. So we must remain vigilant about the vagaries of anti-Black racism, despite the hints of political progress.”
The Oregon House and Senate have approved legislation making Juneteenth a paid state holiday and Gov. Kate Brown is expected to approve it, taking effect in 2022.
The process of adding Juneteenth to the holiday schedule lead university leadership to revisit other state holidays and to also add Veterans Day as a paid university holiday. The university will observe Veterans Day on November 11, 2021. Veterans Day is observed annually to honor military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. It was originally known as Armistice Day and coincides with other countries’ holidays, which recognize the end of major hostilities in World War I.
The addition of Veterans Day and Juneteenth as UO Days of Observance are new opportunities to further the university’s commitment to antiracism and inclusion. Representation matters and holiday observance is only one way to acknowledge and honor the diverse heritage, history, and contributions of members of the UO community. President Schill says the UO observances are an opportunity for the Division of Equity and Inclusion and Human Resources to work more closely together in cultivating cultural humility and inclusive excellence on campus.
DEI and HR will work to partner with UO Strategies and Working Groups. Strategies and Working Groups are autonomous organizations of faculty, staff, and students from Native, Black, Latino, Asian, Desi and Pacific Islander, and white communities, respectively that are open to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. The idea for all UO Strategies and Working Groups came from our Native faculty, staff, and students, who organized and modeled the organizational structure for others on campus. They devote time and effort to advocate for inclusive excellence, justice, and better support for students on campus and beyond. As part of that work, they also create celebrations to honor Native American Heritage Month and Indigenous Peoples Solidary Day, Latino Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, PRIDE and LGBTQIA history months. The Deconstructing Whiteness Working Group also works to raise awareness about racism and how it is perpetuated through individual behavior and systems.
Vice President Yvette Alex-Assensoh and Chief Human Resources Officer Mark Schmelz welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students on campus to leverage the awareness-raising aspects of heritage and history months and UO days of observance toward more inclusive, just, and equitable climate, curricula, policies, and practices benefitting the entire university community.