UC schedule change prompts online protest petition over religious bias

UC schedule change prompts online protest petition over religious bias

Tom Vo, Staff Writer

Incoming freshmen, transfers, and returning students attending a UC that operates under the quarter system in the fall semester of the 2014-2015 school year will have an extra week of summer break and one less for winter break as a result of the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 26-28) and Yom Kippur (Oct. 3-4).

Rosh Hashanah is a two day celebration of the Jewish New Year in honor of God’s first human creations, Adam and Eve, whereas Yom Kippur represents the day of atonement and repentance. Jews observing these holidays are forbidden to exert any type of labor, and also carry items such as writing utensils for their studies.

The 2010 University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey reports that three percent of the student population identified themselves as Jewish; however, not all of them are observant.

According to “The Policy for Addressing Religious Holiday Conflicts with Residence Hall “Move-In” Days” created in 2007, after 2010 all UC’s that are in the process of “setting the common calendar…shall choose calendars (semester and quarter) that avoid scheduling fall residence hall move-in days for students that conflict with the observance of a major religious holiday.”

The calendar policy was originally created due to complaints by Jewish students during the fall semester of 2006 because it conflicted with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The policy has not been enforced until this year.

Of the seven UCs, UC Berkeley and UC Merced are the only two not affected by the calendar change because their campuses run on the semester system rather than the quarter system.

The schedule change has been met with mixed reactions from BC students for varied reasons.

“My view of summer [is that it] is a time to spend with friends before we go off on our separate ways,” senior John Nguyen said. “The shortening of winter break to two weeks does not bother me because it is just the same as the breaks we have in high school.”

However, senior Jaspreet Nijjar is not in favor of the calendar shift.

“I don’t support the schedule change because summer break is already long enough and I’d feel like during winter break, I’d want to spend more time with my family so I’d want that extra week,” senior Nijjar said.

Some UC students openly expressed their displeasures with a shortened winter break through an online petition created by UC Davis student Alfredo Amaya on Change.org. So far, over 31,000 signatures have been collected since it began in January of this year.

“I believe that it is biased for the UC system to set the calendar for the fall semester to be in favor of a minority group for religious or cultural reasons,” senior Khiet Truong said. “If the UC system is avoiding schedule conflicts because of the Jewish holidays this year, then other holidays like Tet, Easter, or Ramadan should be acknowledged as well to make it equal.”

The online petition addressed to UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC regents states, “If we do not regain the 3rd week, we cannot enjoy our time off to the fullest, earn the extra money in order to help pay for school and living expenses, and two weeks is not enough time to rest for the following quarters, especially because the holiday season is full of preparations for the holidays.”

Although many point out the lack of convenience that the schedule change presents, others cite the religious reason as irrational, biased, and a violation of the separation of church and state.

“I couldn’t care less about the fact that our winter break may be shorter by a week,” one online petitioner said. “What I do care about is the fact that the UC is making such a major change to our break to satisfy the wants of an ethnic or religious group. Our UC should remain as neutral as possible towards all ethnic and religious groups, and a decision such as this shows an obvious bias/favoritism towards this particular ethnic or religious group.”