Student governments ask regents to approve Juneteenth as official holiday

In August, the student governments of Iowa’s public universities emailed a letter to the state Board of Regents expressing their desire for Juneteenth to become an official holiday on the academic calendar.

Undergraduate+Student+Government+President+Regan+Smock+speaks+to+the+state+Board+of+Regents+on+June+24.+

Jerod Ringwald

Undergraduate Student Government President Regan Smock speaks to the state Board of Regents on June 24.

Kate Perez , News Reporter


The student governments of Iowa’s three public universities are requesting that the state Board of Regents recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday on their campuses. 

Student representatives from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa sent a letter to the regents with their request on Aug. 19. 

Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, commemorates the day that enslaved people in Texas learned of the emancipation proclamation, the last state in the country to learn of the news.

After President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday, student leaders came together in August. There is strength in unity when the three schools collaborate on issues, said ISU Student Government President Julia Campbell. 

“I think bringing a number of groups from different universities and different backgrounds [together] has been great,” Campbell said. “It gives us a chance to weigh in on things that are pertinent to our communities, at our respective institutions, while coming back to some of those high-level themes that are incredibly important to all of us. It was very uniting to work together.”

The group consists of the presidents and vice presidents from the UI Undergraduate and Graduate and Professional Student Governments, ISU Student Government, and UNI Student Government.

“This is a chance for us to make forward steps to continue that environment of inclusivity and respect that we want to be implemented, not on just one campus, [but] across all three public institutions,” Campbell said. 

The group penned the letter together, UI Undergraduate Student Government President Regan Smock said, and emailed the letter to every member of the regents. 

The student leaders requested that Juneteenth be commemorated with a day off from summer classes or work on campus close to the end of the fiscal year.

They have not received any responses back, Smock said.

“It was actually a very easy thing to do, and it helped us build [our] relationship on something that wasn’t writing a letter [on a topic] that would be super difficult or controversial,” she said. “Any situation where we can — us three schools — can come together, especially to the regents, they really value it.”

Smock said it wasn’t an issue for her to support the recognition of Juneteenth as a university holiday. It didn’t feel controversial to her, Smock said, and she thought it was an important thing to focus on.

“It’s showing we value [Juneteenth]. We recognize that this is an important thing, especially to our Black students, faculty, staff, [and] community members,” Smock said. “We just tried to raise our voices like ‘Hey, this is something we do think you should be focusing on.’”

Josh Lehman, senior communications director for the regents, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the regents plan on discussing the addition of a Juneteenth holiday.

“Juneteenth is a very important day in our nation’s history,” Lehman wrote. “As next year’s academic calendar is being developed, observing Juneteenth as a holiday will be part of the discussion.”

The regents will meet at ISU in Ames on Wednesday and Thursday. Student-government representatives from all three of Iowa’s public universities will attend the meeting, Smock said. 

“We’re meeting with them on the 16th for the big Board of Regents meeting, and it’s on the agenda, so we’ll see what comes out of that,” Smock said. “Having that discussion around the table, it’s harder for us to do with the regents because they’re physically further away. I’m excited to get around the table and hear their thoughts.”

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