UB calendar may see big changes in fall 2013
Labor Day, Thanksgiving, winter break and Jewish holidays potentially affected
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 18:02
The Faculty Senate Executive Committee voted to have class sessions over winter break and hold classes on Labor Day and Jewish holidays.
The proposals still have to go to President Tripathi before a final decision is made, and administration will likely set up a group to provide student input, according to Daniel Ovadia, the UB Council student representative. While some students see the benefits, others are upset by the prospects.
The executive committee, which “shall act as the representative of the Senate and in an advisory capacity to the President,” is a faction of the Faculty Senate authorized to act between Senate meetings, according to Charter of the Faculty Senate.
The committee met on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The Faculty Senate met on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Currently, UB is the only SUNY University Center that does not hold winter intersession classes; University at Albany, University at Binghamton and Stony Brook University have classes over winter break.
The benefits of winter sessions were discussed in a January committee meeting. Kara Saunders, university registrar, used Stony Brook as an example, stating 2,200 students taking three-credit courses would yield about $2 million, according to minutes from Jan. 23 provided by Edward Herman, secretary of the Faculty Senate.
“Possible course offerings might include intensive language study, distance learning, internships, undergraduate research experiences, field research, and ‘boot camps’ – courses that would enable undergraduates who had difficulty in prerequisite courses during the fall semester to master the subject enabling them to continue in the spring,” according the January minutes.
The committee also believes the courses would benefit international students who are already on campus during the winter intersession.
Supong Ozukum, a senior geology major and an international student from India, usually spends his winter break “sitting at home and wasting time.”
“If they offer classes, I’d like to take them,” Ozukum said. “It would help me get ahead for my graduation. It would help me stay ahead of the game.”
Ozukum admits he enjoys having Jewish holidays off, but the committee voted to hold classes on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
“The reasoning is that one religion should not get favorable treatment over others in the academic calendar,” Herman said in an email. “For example, the vote took place on Ash Wednesday, a day when classes were held.”
In Herman’s understanding of New York State law, he said professors cannot give exams, set due dates for projects or papers or mandate attendance on a religious holiday, or “interfere with religious observance in any other way harmful to student success.”
Cortney Rosen, a senior communication major who is of Jewish faith, isn’t happy with the proposal.
“For two of the most religious days of the year in the Jewish religion to not get off is not right,” Rosen said. “It’s sacred and it’s a day where we celebrate and a day we [repent] our sins for the past year.”
Rosen feels if UB holds classes those days, “half the student body wouldn’t be attending” because Jewish students would be observing their religion.
“It’s a full day – whereas Ash Wednesday, no one has a problem of attending work and or school and they just find time to go to church,” Rosen said.
Stony Brook and New Paltz recently implemented a policy to hold classes on Jewish holidays, according to Herman.
Twenty-two of the 29 four-year SUNY campuses do not cancel classes on Jewish holidays, according to Stony Brook’s website.
The committee also voted to hold classes on Labor Day and extend the days off for Thanksgiving to a full week.
The committee felt Labor Day is very disruptive at the beginning of a semester, according to Herman.
“Students who travel home for the holiday often miss more classes than those held on Labor Day,” Herman said. “On the other hand, very few students are in town during Thanksgiving week when classes are canceled on Wednesday. The thought was to recognize this reality and make up the time during the week of Labor Day.”
Rosen agrees it may make traveling for students easier but added, “students need as many breaks as possible.”
Editor's note: A correction was made to Cortney Rosen's quote on Feb. 20. It was corrected to read "repent" instead of "replenish" to accurately represent the the Jewish faith.