Faculty Senate Discusses Replacement of Columbus Day

Caroline Kimbro, Reporter

The Marshall University Faculty Senate adopted a resolution Thursday requesting that President Jerry Gilbert take steps to officially substitute the term “Indigenous People’s Day” for “Columbus Day” in all future Marshall publications referring to the second Monday of October.

Pamela Mulder, professor of psychology, presented this issue at the Senate meeting to acknowledge the holiday’s historical inaccuracy and recognize the importance of indigenous peoples in the United States’ shared history.

“The reasons for making this change involve recognition that the crediting of the discovery of the new world to Christopher Columbus is historically inaccurate,” Mulder said. “That the history of our interaction with the indigenous peoples in North America is not cause for pride and celebration, and that the apparent veneration of the historical figure of Christopher Columbus causes unnecessary emotional and psychological discomfort for many of the indigenous peoples of the continents in this hemisphere, who actually view Columbus’ arrival as the antecedent to genocide, starvation, enslavement and the spread of disease as to manage to result in three to five million deaths.”

Mulder stressed that Columbus did not discover North America, but simply alerted Europeans of a land mass already occupied by a large population. She said it is not enough to add Indigenous People’s Day to the calendar, but asserted that Marshall should remove Columbus Day from all future university documents, policies and communications. She said the day represents one group’s violent dominance over another and celebrates Columbus’ engagement in genocide, rape and enslavement.

“Marshall University is gaining recognition for our global and multicultural efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on our campus and in our local community,” Mulder said. “Making this change is a way of publicly reaffirming our commitment to these endeavors.”

In response to Mulder’s statements, Gilbert said disregarding Columbus Day would ignore a federal holiday. He said he may not have the power to make this change as university president, but would bring the issue before the Marshall University Board of Governors.

Mulder said that other major universities have been able to make the change. Although some faculty opposed the motion, the resolution passed.

The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Memorial Student Center.

Caroline Kimbro can be contacted at [email protected]