By Brittany Garcia, Staff Writer
On Nov. 12, in the small college town of Farmington, Maine, everything may have looked normal. Students and professors bundled in winter clothing, shuffled to classes carrying their usual book bags. On a national holiday set aside to honor the men and women who serve our country, one may wonder, why is UMF holding classes? Some Farmington community members are less than pleased with the administrative decision to have class on Veterans Day, which many find offensive and disappointing.
“It’s been this way for a long time, since I’ve been here,” said UMF professor Elizabeth Cooke, who has been teaching at the university for 21 years. “Around the eighth [of Nov.] all facility received an e-mail explaining that administrators and administrative offices would not be in their offices on Veterans Day,” said Cooke, “but that classes would go on, so that students and faculty would have to be there.” Cooke also explained that Professors are strongly encouraged not to cancel classes, a request that some students and professor do not agree with.
While some people look at Veterans Day as just another day off, others find a deeper meaning in the holiday. Sporting a ‘support our troops’ bracelet on her wrist, UMF freshmen Mandi Osgood is offended that UMF cancels classes on Columbus Day and not Veterans Day. Not only does Osgood have family members who have or are recently serving this country, including her father and brother, she also lost a close friend in 2011 while he was serving his seventh tour as a marine sniper in Afghanistan.
“I feel that it is extremely disrespectful to those who have served in the past, and those who continue to serve our country,” said Osgood with a passionate strength in her voice. “I can’t possibly begin to understand why we recognize a travesty such as Columbus Day and not Veterans Day.”
UMF Professor, veteran, and member of the “Veterans For Peace Organization,” Doug Rawlings is also puzzled with the university’s decision to cancel class for Columbus Day rather than Veterans Day. “Actually, I find it more offensive that we ‘celebrate’ Columbus Day with a day off from classes since he was really at the forefront of the genocide of Native Americans,” said Rawlings in an online interview. “His ‘discovery’ of ‘America’ was really an act of imperialism that led to countless deaths of innocent early Americans,” he said, “so, I’d rather have classes cancelled on Veterans Day than on Columbus Day.”
Jon Oplinger, a UMF Professor and Veteran is less offended by the university’s policy. “I don’t find it offensive that classes are not cancelled on Veterans Day for the simple reason that for most people it will be just another day off,” said Oplinger in a recent e-mail interview, “on some Veterans Day’s, ceremonies have been held on campus,” he said, “This is entirely appropriate and deeply appreciated by veterans –those living– and their families.”
While campus classes may seem unaffected by the national holiday, Professor Cooke takes time to reflect with her students. In a humble, quiet tone, Cooke described how her students lowered their heads and took a moment “to have silence, to think and remember.”
One reason classes may be held on Veterans Day is because of the timing of school vacations. “Our Faculty Senate makes a determination, but then that must be approved by the president of the campus, and then also by the Board of Trustees,” said Cooke, “but I feel that if we really are honoring our veterans, and those who have died, than we really need to address that, and make it possible to have classes be cancelled and have Veterans Day be a regular holiday on campus. I feel that we are not honoring what they have done.”
While Veterans Day is a holiday that is viewed in many different lights, Osgood feels it is important to remember why the nation has this holiday. “You may not agree with the way the military is run, or the act of war, but the fact of the matter is, these women and men risk their lives on a day to day basis, so we don’t have a the threat of war on our doorstep,” said Osgood, “how can you not acknowledge that act of selflessness?