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Stony Brook Univ. to hold class on religious holidays

March 22, 2012 3:14:52 PM PDT
There's outrage at Stony Brook University after officials announced they are changing the school calendar and will begin holding classes on religious holidays.

You'll probably never hear a Stony Brook University student complain about having a Jewish or Catholic holiday off.

But, when you ask some of them what they really think about it there are mixed opinions.

"Either have them all or don't have them all," a student said.

"This is an international campus. You have people here from all over the world you have to respect everyone's views," said Katherine Cano, a student.

That was the thinking exactly of administrators at the university when they decided that next year classes will be held on all religious holidays including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Good Friday.

"We are in line with every major university in the country in terms of putting together a secular academic calendar," said Charles Robbins, Vice-provost.

The move is upsetting some students who will have to make a choice between going to class or spending time with their families on the holidays.

"What we're doing is enhancing and observing the universities respect for al religions and by making sure no faculty or student is penalized for practicing their faith," Robbins said.

The trade off is professors will not be allowed to schedule exams on religious holidays; students can't have assignments due and can't be marked absent if they're not in class.

"I think they're going to be lined up at the door in terms of the number of absences that are going to be asked for," said Rabbi Joseph Topek, the head of the campus interfaith center.

Rabbi Topek says some students already have a difficult time getting excused absences for less well known religious observances.

He says it could also put faculty members, particularly those of the Jewish faith, in a difficult situation.

"I think they're concerned about how to fit the same amount of material into three fewer class sessions a semester," Rabbi Topek said.

The university's student government though overwhelmingly approved the new calendar.

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