Equal opportunity for all religious holidays

Photo courtesy of Ansley Marks

The most wonderful time of the year is quickly approaching as October winds down and marks the threshold for social acceptance of Christmas countdowns. After the first couple of hectic weeks following Thanksgiving, it is break time for us all — time to enjoy spending with family and kicking back and relaxing.

It may be difficult, but imagine a world where the Christmas season is not the norm — some weird convoluted America in which people work, go to school and take tests on Christmas Day. Instead of having a break for family holidays and religious observance, you have to figure out a way to balance those two while also incorporating the daily work-load into your holiday. The point is that this is not imaginary; there are quite a few of us at Tech who live this world.

This past Wednesday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which occurs shortly after the Jewish New Year’s. Yom Kippur is analogous to Christmas in the sense that it is one of Judaism’s most important religious holidays. Many Jews who do not observe other customs will typically still observe Yom Kippur — much like Christmas — by fasting and attending services. Yom Kippur is our time to be with family and should not be filled with mundane work.

Yet Tech has instituted a new policy this year that many others and I were unbeknownst to. According to this new policy, students must inform their professors within the first two weeks of the semester about any absences due to religious holidays to avoid academic penalties. This policy differs from the previous policy, which put the deadline at ten days before
the absence.

This new policy is ridiculous, primarily because if the religious observance were Christmas there would be no doubt that the student would be allowed an excused absence without any sort of penalty. A policy that forced students to ask off for Christmas would be considered so out of line and laughed at.

However, for students of faiths other than Christianity, enjoying a similar privilege is simply not presented as an option. We have to plan our religious observances around the school’s schedule. Maybe if we are lucky enough we will have a teacher that observes the same religion and we can catch some sort of break, literally.

The other main reason why this new policy is ridiculous is because there is no perceivable reason why there would be a great deal of difference between notice being given ten days in advance or two months in advance. What benefit would the teacher receive from hearing the news of an absence so much farther in advance rather than what would seem to have been a reasonable amount of time? To me, the requirements of the new rule pose a disadvantage to those who do not celebrate the holiday that just happens to be that of the majority. To me,
this does not at all seem like a Tech move.

It may be a minor policy change, but there is no reason to have this policy, and the only outcome is a greater disadvantage for a diverse student