April 2023 Heritage Celebrations

To the UConn Community:

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office would like to remind you of several celebrations, commemorations, and moments of raising awareness for members of our community during the month of April:

Heritage Month Celebrations:

Arab American Heritage Month: During the month of April, cultural institutions, schools, legislatures, and organizations across the country formally recognize the achievements of Arab Americans. Over 3.7 million Americans have roots tracing to 22 Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa, representing diverse faiths, races, and languages. Efforts to honor their rich and diverse cultural heritages, as well as the many contributions they have made to American society, have been underway since 2017, when the Arab America Foundation launched Arab American Heritage Month. This year, 45 US states issued proclamations commemorating Arab American Heritage Month, as has President Biden, who in 2021 became the first US president to publicly acknowledge the celebration of Arab American Heritage. ODI and the Provost’s Office wish a happy Arab American Heritage Month to all who commemorate it!

Asian American Heritage Month: Every April, UConn commemorates Asian American Heritage Month – which is observed nationally in May – to honor the contributions Asian, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have made to our country, our state, and our university. We believe that it is especially important to celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of the UConn community following the increase in identity-based harassment and violence these communities faced following the COVID-19 Pandemic. This increase in racially-based violence and harassment has a negative impact on the living, learning, and working conditions for AAPI members of our community – and, in turn, for all members of our community.

This year we honor the AAPI members of our community and are excited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Asian and Asian American Cultural Center! For thirty years, AsACC has played an important role at UConn, providing spaces of community building for AAPI students, staff, and faculty while also raising awareness about issues the AAPI community faces. We are excited to invite the entire UConn community to a month of events hosted by AsACC. We look forward to seeing you there!

Autism Acceptance Month: UConn recognizes Autism Acceptance Month – formerly Autism Awareness Month – each April. Autistic* people make up a large segment of the population: 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism and there are currently over 7 million Americans from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic standings on the autism spectrum. Autism Acceptance Month is aimed at raising awareness about the experiences and needs of autistic people, as well as ensuring that autistic people are able to achieve a high quality of life. The name has been changed from “awareness” to “acceptance” to shift away from stigmatizing language and build welcoming environments where the community’s critical needs for inclusion, connections, and support are met.

* Language preferences vary among individuals on the autism spectrum. You may wish to ask about language preferences and use the language that each individual prefers. Identity-first language is used here to affirm the understanding of autism as an integral part of identity. This language is used and encouraged by many in the autistic community. Read more about identity-first language here.

UConn seeks to ensure that autistic people and those with other forms of neurodivergence have the same access to programs, opportunities, and activities as all others. The University does this, in part, through the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD), which is part of the nationwide Developmental Disabilities Network. UConn also supports neurodiversity through Neurodiversity at UConn, Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Research Experience for Neurodiverse Students, and the Center for Neurodiversity and Employee Innovation.

In addition, UConn supports access through the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), which offers a variety of programs and services for students with disabilities at all campuses, including at UConn Health. CSD utilizes MyAccess, which allows students to more easily request accommodations and facilitates faculty and staff efforts to meet those accommodations. Students can get involved in Diversability, a group dedicated to creating spaces to discuss ability, disability, access, and inclusion. Faculty and staff can request OIE’s training to increase awareness and understanding of disability access and responsibilities at UConn. UConn seeks to ensure that staff and faculty with disabilities are afforded reasonable accommodations through OIE, the Human Resources department, and UConn Health’s Human Resources. UConn also offers a Certificate of Interdisciplinary Disability Studies in Public Health.

National Alcohol Awareness Month: In 1987, the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) established April as National Alcohol Awareness Month. The purpose of this month is to raise awareness about one of the nation’s largest health issues; to reduce the social stigma associated with alcoholism; to educate people about the causes and available treatments; and to offer advice for those struggling with alcohol abuse or dependency. At UConn, we endeavor to ensure that substance use is not a barrier to academic, personal, or professional success. Please visit Student Health and Wellness’s (SHaW) Alcohol and Substance Use Support, UConn Recovery Support Services, and UConn’s Recovery Community Center for resources, trainings, and opportunities for support on your journey or to learn how you can support others on theirs. This April, we would like to remind you that no one is alone in their journey through recovery; while every journey is different, we are all in this together.

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month: Every April, UConn renews its commitment to eliminating sexual violence on our campuses, in our state, and across the country. Sexual assault, harassment, violence, and abuse can happen anywhere: in the US, nearly 1 in 5 women experience rape or attempted rape. Sexual violence disproportionately impacts women of color, Native and Indigenous women, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ women, and disabled women. Moreover, people under the age of 30, especially college-aged individuals, face the highest rates of sexual assault, including 21% of transgender or non-binary students, 18% of female students, and 4% of male students. Ending sexual violence requires care and commitment from all of us.

The Women’s Center is committed to raising awareness about sexual violence and prevention and supporting survivors of sexual violence year-round. The Women’s Center is here for you. In particular, UConn offers education, outreach, and advocacy about sexual violence through the Women’s Center’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program. They will hold several activities this month, including “Take Back the Night” (April 19) in honor of sexual assault survivors.

ODI supports University efforts to hold accountable the individuals who commit sexual assault, violence, and harassment. We encourage you to report incidents of assault, violence, and harassment, especially through inform.uconn.edu and the Office of Institutional Equity. The Dean of Students Office can assist with supportive measures for students. including academic and other concerns and modifications to class schedule—Please know that you do not have to make a formal complaint or participate in any investigative process in order to receive assistance and support. UConn employees are obligated to advise the Office of Institutional Equity if they receive a report of sexual assault; cultural center full-time employees are exempt from this, however, which means that we can support you without reporting your information (unless you request it or an incident involves a minor).

You can find more resources through the Title IX Office and Responding to Student Disclosures of Sexual Violence. You may also find information on the President’s Task Force on Combating Sexual Violence on the President’s website.

Cultural and Federal Holidays:

Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd): World Autism Awareness Day highlights the need to improve the quality of life for autistic* people. This year’s observance highlights the contributions of autistic people at home, at work, in the arts, and in policymaking. Autism usually manifests during early childhood and presents on a spectrum of behaviors and abilities. The autism spectrum refers to a range of neurological variations that may present as challenges related to social interactions, communication, and sensory processing. Recent research has also found autism to be associated with strengths such as pattern identification, systems thinking, and attention to detail. UConn celebrates the members of our communities who present on the autism spectrum; we recognize the power of neurodiversity. To learn more about autism, as well as UConn’s support systems and communities for neurodivergent individuals, please visit Neurodiversity at UConn.

* Language preferences vary among individuals on the autism spectrum. You may wish to ask about language preferences and use the language that each individual prefers. Identity-first language is used here to affirm the understanding of autism as an integral part of identity. This language is used and encouraged by many in the autistic community. Read more about identity-first language here.

Yom HaShoah / Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 17th – 18th): Yom HaShoah is an annual day of remembrance for the approximately six million Jewish people who were systematically murdered during the Holocaust. Though originally established by the Israeli government, Yom HaShoah is commemorated around the world. In North America, Jewish communities typically hold synagogue services, communal vigils, and educational programs that explain the horrors of the Holocaust and renew our vows to never let such violence happen again. This year, Judaic Studies will hold a talk at Stamford called “‘Eli’s Story’: A Holocaust Remembrance Lecture featuring Meri-Jane Rochelson” (Tuesday, 4/18, 5:30 – 7:00 PM; streaming available). UConn Hillel will also hold a “Remembering the Shoah” talk featuring Holocaust survivor, Nina Jacobs, and opening remarks by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (Tuesday, 4/18, 4:15 – 7:00 PM).

Earth Day (April 22): April 22nd marks the anniversary of the 1970 founding of the modern environmental movement. Discussions about the environment began with the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Springs, which raised awareness about the impacts of pollution. Following the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, Senators Gaylord Nelson and Pete McCloskey, along with activist Denis Hayes, organized the first-ever Earth Day, which led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and several environmental protection laws. This year’s Earth Day theme is Invest in Our Planet, which aims to persuade citizens, governments, and businesses of the need to invest in our planet, improve our environment, and give our descendants a better future. UConn celebrates Earth Day through Spring Fling, an annual celebration of sustainability co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability and Department of Dining Services.

Religious Holidays:

Easter (April 9): Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is preceded by a holy week between Palm Sunday (April 2) and Easter Sunday, which includes Good Friday. Festivities typically include a special church service, music, flowers, and ringing of church bells.

Eid al-Fitr (April 21st – 22nd): Eid al-Fitr is one of two major feasts Muslims celebrate each year. Translated as “the festival of breaking the fast,” it marks the end of Ramadan. After a month of fasting during Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is seen as a spiritual celebration of Allah’s provision of strength and endurance. Traditions vary from place to place, but might include special morning prayers, exchanging gifts, and giving to those in need. This year, UConn will be holding an Eid celebration on Wednesday, 4/26, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. See AsACC’s website for more information and to RSVP.

Lent (February 22nd – April 6th in Western Churches, February 27th – April 15th in Eastern and Orthodox Churches): In Christianity, Lent is a liturgical season prior to Easter. Though mostly associated with Catholics, Lent is celebrated by members of Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Generally, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation celebrating Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Orthodox Easter (April 16): The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by Orthodox Christians, especially in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, the Republic of North Macedonia, Romania, and Russia.

Passover (April 5th – April 13th): Passover, also known as Pesach, celebrates the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. It commemorates the struggle for freedom from bondage. Members of the Jewish community all over the world observe Passover by hosting seder meals. UConn events include Passover at Chabad. UConn Hillel will also be hosting two Seder meals this year: a traditional Passover Seder on Wednesday, 4/5, at 6:00 PM at Hillel House and a Teaching Seder on Thursday, 4/6, at 6:00 PM in the Husky Suite at the Student Recreation Center. Everyone is welcome to attend! Please RSVP here.

Ramadan (March 22nd – April 20th): A holy month for Muslims that is used for spiritual reflection and growth, for helping those in need, and spending time with loved ones. Ramadan is a moveable holiday, beginning and ending with the crescent moon during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims around the world typically observe a fast during daylight hours. UConn Dining at Storrs will have specially prepared meals and will set up a station for students to collect those meals after sundown. Both South and Towers Dining Halls will be open late for Iftar. Members of the UConn Health community can participate in Friday prayers at Interfaith Murray-Heilig Chapel, located on the M-level in University Tower at John Dempsey Hospital.

Vaisakhi (April 14): This holiday marks the start of the Punjabi New Year and also celebrates the year (1699) when Sikhism was established as a formal order by Guru Gobind Singh. The day is observed by temple worship, feasting and dancing.

We welcome the celebration of each of these holidays on our campuses and encourage support for those requiring accommodations. You can find information and guidance about academic accommodations for religious observations on the Provost Office’s webpage.

To see more information about resources and events happening this month and throughout the semester, please visit our events page at www.diversity.uconn.edu/events. ODI writes these letters in collaboration with our partners across the UConn system. If we inadvertently omitted a cultural or religious holiday, please let us know by emailing us at diversity@uconn.edu.


Frank, Anne, and Jeff

Frank Tuitt
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer

Anne D’Alleva
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Jeffrey F. Hines, MD
Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, UConn Health