April 22, 2019 | 59° F

University’s policy on religious holidays is fair

Letter to the editor

As observant Jews, we sympathize with Sara’s Zayed’s frustration in relation to her Daily Targum column published on Oct. 22, “Muslim holy days should be considered holidays.” It is certainly irritating to deal with missing the volume of class and course material we do every single year for our many holidays, which start at sundown and may end at night anywhere from one to three days later. In fact, for those of us who celebrate these holidays in the Orthodox tradition, there are restrictions in place that not only prevent us from attending class, but in fact, prohibit us from doing any form of work or studying. This means that anywhere from one to three days at a time, we are mandated to miss work, which can make it difficult to stay caught up.

However, Rutgers has addressed this issue, and there are official policies in place that are not contingent on the size of the religious group or how much or how little their holidays impact them. Rutgers’s official policy on religious holidays, as stated in University Regulation on Attendance, Book 2, 2.47B, is that “it is University policy to excuse without penalty students who are absent from class because of religious observance, and to allow the make-up of work missed because of such absence. Examinations and special required out-of-class activities shall ordinarily not be scheduled on those days when religiously observant students refrain from participating in secular activities. Absences for reasons of religious obligation shall not be counted for purposes of reporting.”

In Zayed’s column, she states “Going to school — and work, for Muslim faculty — during Eid is equivalent to doing the same on Christmas.” There is in fact a crucial difference between the two that Zayed is ignoring. Christmas is a federal holiday — see 5 U.S.C. 6103 — and the only reason Rutgers gives off on Christmas is because it is a federal holiday. It is not so that Christians can celebrate more easily. In fact, from the University’s perspective, they do not give off for any religious holidays.

Rutgers is extremely accommodating of religious students who miss class and work for religious observance, as many in the Jewish community here can testify. The issue is simply that there are far too many groups and affiliations on campus for Rutgers to fully accommodate them all by canceling classes on every holiday or day of religious observance. It’s just not possible to accommodate everyone. So the University, therefore, does not give off for any religious holidays, and instead provides make-up work and exams on an individual basis — a system that works well for most students. It is then up to the students to manage their time well, get notes and attend office hours to keep up with their work.

The fact is Rutgers is actually better than most colleges in terms of religious accommodation, a factor that has led to an extremely diverse and vibrant campus community, and there’s really no need to change that.

Joseph Kotzker is a School of Engineering first-year student. Talia Greenstein is a School of Engineering sophomore.

By Joseph Kotzker

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