DAC Proposes Indigenous Peoples Day to USG


Bojeung Leung/The Fordham Ram

The Diversity Action Committee brought a proposal to the United Student Government to recognize Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day.

Marisa Valentino, Contributing Writer

The ongoing, nationwide dialogue on how to recognize the second Monday of October is coming to a head on Fordham’s campus. New York state and Fordham University both currently celebrate it as Columbus Day, but United Student Government (USG) is petitioning the university to recognize it as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Although the federal government recognizes the date as Columbus Day, many universities, businesses and even some states have chosen to make the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day. Some support Columbus Day and view it as a significant aspect of Italian-American heritage, while others believe Indigenous Peoples Day is more appropriate, as it is an opportunity to celebrate and respect members of the Native American community.

Sen. Carsyn Fisher, FCRH ’21, co-chair of Diversity Action Coalition (DAC) first proposed the resolution at a weekly USG meeting on Thursday, Oct. 3. Two weeks later, on Oct. 17, the motion was passed unanimously barring two abstentions.

In an interview with The Fordham Ram, Fisher said DAC began the process by conducting historical and peer-aspirant research on other universities across the country. Afterward, a resolution was written and a petition was created.

DAC has also created a petition to build support for the resolution. According to Fisher, the petition has close to 400 signatures.

Fisher said the next step for USG will be to reach out to the calendar committee at Fordham University to show them the petition, results of the passed resolution and ask them to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day on the Fordham University calendar.

She said this change would allow “a climate on campus of more inclusivity and create prospective students looking at website to see Fordham is an inclusive space and a place where people think about these kinds of things and question the traditions and institutional norms.”

Furthermore, she hopes this initiative will encourage more discussions on campus about recognizing and respecting the culture of all students.

DAC is also working to encourage the university to publish a “land acknowledgement” statement.

“It is a statement that recognizes that Fordham sits on the land of indigenous people or land that is home to indigenous people,” said Fisher.

The statement would recognize the Lenni-Lenape tribe, who inhabited the land in the 1600s. Fisher said this acknowledgement would ideally be posted on Fordham’s website, similar to Columbia University, Colorado College, Northwestern University and University of Illinois.

“I think it’s an important issue in terms of showing indigenous students and the indigenous people around the Fordham community that their voices and lives matter to us,” said USG Executive President Kaylee Wong, GSB ’20. “It’s saying we will not celebrate someone who committed these horrific acts against their ancestors.”

According to the USG website, DAC seeks to make Fordham a more inclusive environment for all students. The coalition allows club leaders to create initiatives to promote greater acceptance and understanding of diversity.

“Many of these groups, especially at Fordham, tend to feel unseen or unheard,” said Wong. “Some people might feel like it doesn’t make a huge impact but to someone who has faced these issues, it can mean the difference between feeling comfortable and uncomfortable on campus.”

Wong said DAC is a unique place in terms of being student-run.

“It’s a really good outlet for members of smaller and more marginalized groups to come together to discuss their experience and work toward initiatives to make the student experience better,” she said.

“As an Asian woman on campus, I think it’s great because we can come together to discuss our own experience and also put forth initiatives and ideas to make it so future generations of Fordham don’t have to have the same experiences,” said Wong.