A secular calendar was implemented for the first time this year, eliminating religious holiday breaks such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the effects of which are still echoing throughout the Hofstra community.
While the nonsporadic schedule helped professors hit the ground running with lesson plans this year, many students and faculty are still not satisfied with the university’s decision to switch to a secular calendar.
Eve Morin, a senior English and education major who is involved with Hofstra Hillel, the center for Jewish life on campus, celebrated Rosh Hashanah away from home for the first time in her life this year.
“The change to the secular calendar was abrupt, unexpected and upsetting to me. I would have a hard time saying it isn’t fair, because the calendar has never been fair to individuals who did not get their holidays off. But I will say that I wish the changes were thought about more before being put into place,” Morin said.
Morin is one of many who wish the calendar could have been adjusted differently.
Amanda Moncada, a senior education major and president of the Newman Club, sympathized with Hillel saying, “For the Newman Club, Easter is a really big holiday for us, and students who want to spend it with their family who live far away don’t have the opportunity to do that, so it kind of sucks.”
Ash Rahman is a sophomore marking major who, despite being Muslim, recognizes the presence of Hofstra’s thriving Jewish community.
“It would have been nice if the school was able to cater to all the religions, but then again that would mean that we would basically have 365 days off,” he said. “They should give off for days for the majority and only for larger religious holidays. Since Hofstra started off as a Jewish school in a Jewish community, we should keep the tradition the way it is and not try to change it,” Rahman suggested.
However since its creation in 1935, the university has been a nonsectarian institution, not aligning with any one religion.
While students who express and practice greater religious devotion and commitment feel passionately about the subject, others see the complete dismissal of days off for religious holidays as the most justified solution as Hofstra’s diversity and cultural variations continue to expand.
Business Professor Stuart L. Bass was responsible for facilitating the shift in the calendar as the chairperson of the Planning and Budget Committee of the University Senate.
“In the last decade or so, the school has experienced a tremendous influx of students of various ethnic culture, backgrounds and religions,” Bass said. “The idea behind observing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was that there was a significant Jewish population and a significant amount of Jewish faculty. Because of the new cultural and social dynamics, the thought came up that we have to try to eliminate the holidays.”
Bass was entirely aware of the religious obligations of participants. He continued by explaining that in changing the calendar he also felt it necessary to change the faculty statute to match the law that any member of the university cannot be retaliated against due to religious affiliations.
“The one thing that I insisted upon … is that … some adjustments are going to have to be made so that no student – regardless of their religious obligations or religious beliefs – shall be in any way subjected to retaliation or retribution,” Bass said. “No exams or assignments shall be given and/or be due on any of the holidays, and whenever or however possible, faculty members are to accommodate the students in terms of extra time, or whatever the case may be.”
Peter Goodman, a communications professor, and a Jewish member of the faculty cancelled his classes during the week of Rosh Hashanah.
Goodman said, “What we try to do is create lessons and assignments that students can do instead of going to class. Some professors will do online learning or distance learning … instead of all classes being cancelled, this only affects a portion of the school, which is the Jewish population.”