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Can Professors Stop Scheduling Exams on Jewish Holidays? K Thanks.

I don’t consider myself to be especially difficult to work with. I don’t have any absurd allergies, I’m self-sufficient, and I don’t try to cause problems. I’m also Jewish (not super observant) but Jewish enough to want to spend the holidays with my family. Now Judaism has about a thousand holidays but there are three that are pretty major: Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover (notice how Hanukkah isn’t on there? Yeah it’s a pretty minor holiday that got blown out of proportion because it’s so close to Christmas). Growing up in the Midwest I never got those days off of school, I missed them to be in services with my family or in the case of Passover I went to school because The Seder was at night. Either way, it was no more than a minor inconvenience to miss class in elementary school. In High School, I would occasionally have to move around a rehearsal or meeting, but again I could manage with missing two days in the fall. It was annoying and sometimes difficult, but Minnesota isn’t exceptionally Jewish, so I figured it was just ignorance.  

Boston University has the second highest population of Jewish students (second only to NYU) with almost 1/3 of the undergraduate student body being Jewish, so one would think that professors would take the Jewish holidays into account when scheduling exams. Once again I don’t mean the hundreds of minor Jewish holidays I really just mean the big ones, the ones that make it onto the non-Jewish calendar. Yet every year I open up my syllabus to find that somehow midterms coincide with a major holiday. What follows is a conversation between either the professor and myself where I try to sound as flexible as possible to hide that I’m incredibly fed up after fourteen years of this nonsense. During this conversation, the professor always sounds surprised that they chose a date that a major Jewish holiday falls on, and lets you know you can make it up, on their time of course. A professor would never schedule an exam on Christmas or Easter, you would never be expected to take a more difficult makeup exam because you missed class for a major Christian holiday, yet somehow it’s acceptable to offer a take home open book exam on Yom Kippur, with the alternative being a closed notes in office make up.  

My professors, teachers, and high school choir teachers likely weren’t malicious in their scheduling, more likely they just weren’t paying attention, an innocent enough mistake. The problem is after twenty-one years of having my religion and in part, my culture, looked over or critiqued, something like having to reschedule a college exam at a fairly Jewish school feels bigger than it is. It isn’t just professors saying, “Oh I’m so sorry about that I didn’t realize” or, “you can take a different version the day you come back” or, “oh well it’s take home so you can find some time.”  It sounds a lot more like “you don’t matter.”  I’m sure that isn’t the intention, but that’s the impact.  

I don’t ask for much, just for the professors at a school with literally thousands of Jewish students to peruse the calendar before scheduling their next midterm on Rosh Hashanah.   

Sophie is a junior at Boston University studying Psychology and Education. When she isn't memorizing parts of the brain or writing papers on the philosophies of teaching, she likes to dance, shop, and obsess over her pet rabbit.
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