By Ann Marie Galvan
City College’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution introduced by Trustee Alan Wong that will observe Lunar New Year as a day off for the college community.
Currently, California education code specifies the holidays that community colleges can celebrate, and the two required days in February are Lincoln Day and Washington Day. Often, these days are combined into a single holiday — Presidents Day. This combined holiday frees up a day for celebration, and the resolution suggests community colleges may choose to celebrate Presidents Day and the Lunar New Year.
Lunar New Year has been an observed holiday for the San Francisco Unified School District since 1994. Earlier this year, Assemblymember Evan Low’s bill to recognize Lunar New Year as a state holiday stalled due to budgetary concerns, but Wong’s cost-neutral solution for California community colleges was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees. Next, officials will meet with state legislators to formally alter state education code.
City College’s Lunar New Year proposal follows in the footsteps of other observed holidays: in June 2021, Mayor London Breed announced Juneteenth as a legal holiday for San Francisco employees, and in March 2022, the White House declared the observance of César Chávez Day. Considering the importance of the Lunar New Year for Asian communities, many felt this proposal was long overdue.
“For City College, Lunar New Year is very significant,” Wong said. “It is about acknowledging and respecting the large Asian student body that we have at City College.
“One-third of our student body is of Asian descent, and many of them often have to decide between taking care of their families, cooking and preparing for celebration with their community, or classwork,” he continued. “For the Asian community, having this move forward is an acknowledgment of the diversity of our college and a celebration of our community.”
Lingyi Li, President of Associated Students at City College’s Evans Campus and President of the Chinese Culture Club, agreed. Li said that the club has over 400 members and could use the day off to honor the holiday with the community.
“Last semester we wanted to celebrate it, but we did not have the free time. If we had one day of school off, that would be great. Not just for Asian students — we would also invite people from different cultures to come and celebrate,” Li said.
Faculty also supported the resolution. “While it may be administratively challenging and unique culturally to work with a lunar calendar, making Lunar New Year an official paid holiday would also send the same message of acknowledgement and respect to staff,” said Angie Fa, Chair of the Asian American Studies Department.
“It is interesting to ask in 2022, why hasn’t this happened earlier? It is inspiring that San Francisco can play a leadership role in requesting the amending of state law so all community colleges across the state can have the option of observing Lunar New Year,” Fa said.