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Schedule exams around Jewish holidays

By Brian Fortman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 23, 1998
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To the editor,

"Our final exam will be December 25. A make-up exam is available the next day apart from the class in an unfamiliar environment, which may be a different exam and which may cause you to miss class to take it."

Ridiculous? Of course. Nevertheless, this is in essence what hundreds of students face each year when professors schedule exams on Yom Kippur - and they must choose to join family to observe these holiest of days or remain at school to preserve their grades.

The professors often give the poor excuse that the semester schedule necessitates an exam on one of those days, and with a make-up (even if it is not the same as that given to the class) there is no prejudice.

Yet their schedules never compel them to set exams on weekends or Thanksgiving or any other "official" holiday.

These Jewish holy days only affect two days for a Monday/Wednesday/Friday course or one day for a Tuesday/Thursday course. It is absurd to claim that any two days are the only days available for an exam in an entire semester. Professors were provided by the administration with a calendar listing these holidays for the next five years to avoid scheduling conflicts.

This is certainly not a new issue and is not limited to religious die-hards. I recently signed the letter sent to thousands of my fellow alumni to donate for our tenth anniversary. As a freshman at the UA when I reminded my Calculus professor that he scheduled an important exam on Rosh Hashanah he said that I could take a make-up in a room by myself with a TA standing over me. The exam would be different so I wouldn't cheat and it would be during class so I would miss what was being taught in class that day.

He saw no inequity in this.

Because I was active in ASUA and knew whom to contact, my objections caused him to reschedule the exam for the class so that no one had to miss class.

Unfortunately, most students do not know whom to go to or are afraid of repercussions. While visiting my family here for the holidays, I learned from current students that professors still schedule exams on these days. These students did not protest because they did not wish to be singled out.

Students who celebrate Christmas or any secular holidays are not faced with the unreasonable choice between taking an exam with the class as scheduled or taking an exam in an unavoidably unfamiliar environment. To those who have not experienced subtle prejudice or minority status it may be difficult to imagine why taking an exam with the class scheduled is significant, but timing and environment affect performance.

Separate but equal is unjust. There is enough peer and time pressure in college to discourage students from being spiritually active while in college. Increasing these pressures is unacceptable in an institution of higher learning. I hope that the university community will work towards inclusion and sensitivity, and not force anyone to choose between being a good student or a good person.

Brian Fortman
Class of 1998 alumnus