State University of New York plans to hold classes on religious holidays

State University of New York plans to hold classes on religious holidays April 3, 2012

And it’s causing a predictable outcry:

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre and other religious and political leaders are criticizing an announcement by a state university that from now on it will hold classes on major Jewish and Christian holidays.

In a March 26 statement, Bishop Murphy responded to the decision by Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, to hold classes on such religious holidays as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and have spring break fall after the seventh week of class in the semester rather than during the time of Holy Week, Easter and Passover.

“The proposed changes are misguided and overtly hostile to a targeted group: the Judeo-Christian tradition and all those members of the administration, faculty, staff and student body who are proud to be part of this tradition,” Bishop Murphy said.

“Very simply, the changes, if adopted, will force these persons to choose between practice of their faith and taking examinations, attending/teaching classes or partaking in the other campus duties, responsibilities and activities,” the bishop continued.

“Sadly, the university would be sacrificing the long-recognized and long-standing freedom of Christians and Jews to practice their religion without fear of negative consequences,” Bishop Murphy said, “and all for the sake of efficiency, logic and a specious inclusiveness.”

Nine state senators from Long Island, including Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, sent a letter March 21 to Samuel Stanley, president of Stony Brook, saying the university’s decision was reached without the wide consultation used in the past for academic calendars.

“We are hopeful that you will re-examine your process and implement a policy that takes into consideration the best interests of students and faculty across your campus,” the letter said.

According to a statement posted on the university website, Stony Brook historically has canceled classes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and often — though not uniformly — planned spring break to coincide with Passover and Easter.

“Since these holidays do not fall on the same date every year, spring break was unpredictable,” the statement said. “Last spring, students complained that they did not have enough time to prepare for exams because spring break fell so close to the end of the semester.”

Those complaints prompted the university to look at an alternative calendar to serve students’ academic needs, “so at their request we changed our calendar,” it said.

According to the statement, the new policy reflects the growing diversity of the student body, which includes about as many Muslim as Jewish students, and it treats all religions the same, similar to the calendars at other major public universities. It said the decision was presented to various university organizations and the University Council and the University Senate, which represents the entire faculty, staff and student body.

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