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Merrimack Recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Hosts Two Days of Events on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Olivia Faulkner ’22

Social Media & Marketing Director

This year marks the inaugural year of recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Merrimack College.

Why the change?

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day acknowledges the atrocities committed, moving toward progress, and commemorating indigenous peoples’ contributions throughout history,” Leena Ali ‘21 said. “I hope this change will create a culture at Merrimack that is truly inclusive and unapologetically denounces racism and white supremacy in all forms.”  

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Merrimack also recognizes and creates solidarity with the people who first cultivated the very grounds we teach and learn on today. 

So, what was the process like to make this change at Merrimack?

Former SGA President Amanda Gallagher ’20 reports that this was about a year-long process. This change had already been approved in the town of North Andover, and since Merrimack is a key piece of the North Andover community it inspired students to work on the change. Ali brought up the issue at a Student Government meeting, and Gallagher swiftly got SGA involved in pushing for this change while senators started polling the student body on Main St.  

Simultaneously, the Merrimack College faculty senate reviewed and passed legislation approving the change to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. When the faculty senate passes legislation it then goes to President Hopey for approval or rejection.

President Hopey approved this change in mid-July. 

The first Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Merrimack will coincide with two days worth of events dedicated to educating students, faculty, and staff about diversity, equity, and inclusion more broadly. SGA will be hosting the “Student Activism in Turbulent Times: Promise and Challenges” event on October 13 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm to honor change and promote solidarity among all members of our community. 

According to SGA Diversity Committee Chair, Haley Taing ’21, this two-day series of events was designed so that all members of the community have the opportunity to attend remotely, and so that professors can integrate panels into their curricula.

Here are just some of the sessions being held Monday and Tuesday of next week (be on the lookout for Zoom links via email):

October 12

8:00-9:30 a.m. Diversity University, a conversation about race, gender and sexual orientation and how they impact our lives, featuring Dr. Julia Garcia and Monti Washington, followed by Q & A with Peter Rojas and students.

9:30-10:45 a.m. “Understanding and preventing police violence: A public Health perspective

A presentation by Dr. Justin Feldman with introduction by Dr. April Bowling. Co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Institute.

5:00-6:30 p.m. Transnational Indigenous Women’s Activism. Moderated by Dr. Yi-Chun Tricia Lin. Co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Southern Connecticut State University and Merrimack’s Cultural Diversity Alliance (MCDA).

7:00-8:30 p.m. Roundtable: Queer Journeys and Coming Out Stories. Co-sponsored by the Gender & Sexuality Alliance, and the Faculty and Staff LGBTQ+ Affinity Group.

3:30-4:45 p.m. Creating Space for Change: Racial Dialogue. A student-focused workshop co-facilitated by Dr. Cherie Bridges Patrick and Dr. Lindsay Lyons.

October 13

11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Emotional Agility: How to Be Your Best Self in Times of Crisis, a President’s Speaker Series event featuring Dr. Susan David. Facilitated by Dr. Michael Mobley. Sponsored by the Office of the President and Robert McCusker ’68. Co-sponsored by Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority Inc. Kappa Omicron Chapter. 

Noon-1:30 p.m. Gender, Race and Social Justice Activism, A conversation with Melissa Denizard. Co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, the Social Justice Program and the Unity House

2:00-3:30 p.m. Transforming Masculinities: Accounting for White Privilege and Male Privilege. A roundtable conversation with Dr. Brian Klocke, Duane De Four and Michael Senoff. Moderated by Peter Rojas. Co-sponsored by The Women’s and Gender Studies Department, Gender Equality at Merrimack (GEM) and One Love.

4:00-5:30 p.m. Student Activism in Turbulent Times: Promise and Challenges. A workshop for student activists with Melissa Denizard. Co-sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) and Gender Equality at Merrimack (GEM).