University of Portland to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2020

By Rachel Ramirez | February 13, 2018 11:08am
The University of Portland will begin recognizing MLK Jr. Day in 2020 by closing the university and cancelling classes. This photo is by Rowland Scherman; restored by Adam Cuerden, and is public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

University President Fr. Mark Poorman today announced the creation of a new full-time position position to lead University of Portland’s efforts to be more diverse and inclusive: Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Poorman also announced that beginning in 2020, UP would cancel its classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day every January.

The developments stem from the Vision 2020 strategic plan, a 5-year plan that outlines the university's goals. Diversity and Inclusion are a major focus of Vision 2020.

These changes are part of University President Fr. Mark Poorman’s five-year strategic plan, Vision 2020, which in part aimed to prioritize diversity and inclusion. In an email to the UP community on Monday morning, Poorman outlined immediate changes to improve community resources and curriculum.

As one of the primary initiatives, The Office of the Provost will soon announce a plan to create an administrative office or unit for diversity and inclusion-related positions on campus.

A new full-time position focused on equity and inclusion was also created to work with both the Provost Office and Human Resources to design training initiatives on cultural competency, gender differences, disability, and generally “sustain a welcoming culture at the University of Portland,” according to the official job listing. 

The University has already implemented some of the goals from Vision 2020 including the formation of a new partnership with Davis New Mexico Scholarship Program, in which the University welcomed eight students from underrepresented communities in New Mexico who received a full tuition scholarship to UP last fall. 

“My favorite thing about this partnership is everything is done in such a way where students are getting the resources they need to research colleges when they’re seniors in high school to understand the college application process and find a place that’s going to be the right fit for them,” Casandra Esparza, admissions counselor of diversity and inclusion told The Beacon three weeks ago. “We really take the time to build relationship with these students.”

The University also joined the “She Can” program which is designed to provide for and empower young women from post-conflict countries such as Cambodia and Rwanda by improving access to higher education. The University will offer participants tuition, room and board, health insurance, textbooks and fees for all four years of education at UP as stated in Poorman’s email. 

“While these achievements are certainly progress towards our goal of diversifying our community, we know there is more work to be done,” Poorman said in the email. “We are committed to continuing to recruit and retain new faculty and staff members who represent diverse backgrounds.”