The pavement in front of Ives Hall yesterday read “Respect Labor,” as members of the Cornell Organization for Labor Action passed out fliers and encouraged Cornellians to add their names to the chalk petition.
“Students were showing their support for having the day off for Labor Day and showing respect for anyone — faculty, staff and students — working today, specifically at the [School of Industrial and Labor Relations],” said Elizabeth Chimienti ’02, president of COLA.
“I think it’s hypocritical because they teach us to respect labor, yet the day that is designated to respect labor we don’t respect,” said ILR student Tanvee Mehra ’03.
Along with photographs of the chalk petition, COLA has collected 400 signatures on a written petition to present to ILR Dean Edward J. Lawler later this week. The organization will ask if Lawler can grant ILR students and faculty a holiday for Labor Day and for his support in requesting that the Faculty Senate modify the University calendar, dismissing all classes on the national holiday, said COLA member David Unger ’02.
“Right now we’re just seeing how the Dean reacts to today’s actions,” Chimienti said. “We’re confident that he’ll be receptive to his students’ requests, and that we’ll be able to work out a plan together.”
“We would certainly consider a change, and we would be interested in hearing what the students have in mind,” Lawler said last week.
Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president of University relations, explained that New York state dictates a certain number of class days; if Cornell takes Labor Day off, another day of classes must be added.
The University also remains in session during other national holidays, including Presidents’ Day.
“We’re an anomaly among universities that we don’t have [Labor Day] off,” said Student Assembly President Uzo Asonye ’02.
The Student Assembly is in the process of helping to create the University calendar for 2003 through 2005, and has ultimate approval of the Faculty Senate’s design. Should the Faculty Senate decide to change the calendar, there will still be classes on Labor Day for another three years, as the calendar is created several years in advance, Dullea explained.
“It’s definitely a long-term project, but it’s good to show that students really support the effort,” COLA member Mike Moschella ’02 said.
“We hope to make this change at least for future ILR students and Cornell students. We’re patient,” Chimienti said.
Prof. Richard W. Hurd, ILR, recalled that the school did have Labor Day off several years ago, in addition to a pre-Labor Day Convocation. In lieu of attending classes, students and faculty participated in alternative events, such as listening to labor speakers. The policy was later terminated due to declining interest and difficulties in attracting speakers.
There is now renewed interest in honoring the holiday at the school, however, which Chimienti attributes to the fact that “labor is on the rise again.”
Lee Adler, a member of the extension faculty in ILR, said that some of his colleagues would have preferred to do something “slightly out of the mold” yesterday, by interacting with workers and students rather than teaching in the classroom.
Some COLA members did just that. The fliers they passed out invited the Cornell community to accompany fellow Cornellians and workers at the Midstate Central Labor Council’s Labor Day Picnic at Stewart Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Archived article by Heather Schroeder