UC Davis petition fosters debate over religion's role in class schedule
- Over 27,000 UC Davis students have signed a fellow student's change.org petition, addressed to UC President Janet Napolitano, protesting an academic calendar change that would shorten the next academic year's winter break from three weeks to two.
- The change was made as a result of a 2007 UC policy that requires the school to accommodate major religious holidays. Because Rosh Hashanah falls on Sept. 24 to 26, classes will start a week later than before, on Sept. 29, so Jewish students can celebrate the holiday, thus shortening the winter break to compensate.
- The petition was posted on Jan. 22 and has bred debate over the quarter system's constraints and the role of religion in planning the school's schedule.
The leading argument among those signing the petition is this: Due to the change in schedule, a shorter winter break makes it more difficult for international students, as well as those from across state lines, to easily return home. Student Alfredo Amaya, who created the petition, suggests that the start of the 2014-15 winter quarter should be bounced back a week to Jan. 12, still allowing Jewish students to celebrate Rosh Hashanah while maintaining a three-week break. However, that change would impact the following year's calendar due to the restrictions of a quarter-based system, since the summer quarter can't be shortened.
It's a difficult situation to be sure, but it does beg the question: Given the separation between church and state, should a public higher ed institution be required to plan its calendar based on religion? Then again, UC Davis could switch to a semester system and sidestep this issue all together.
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