Since Hofstra switched from a religious to an academic (secular) calendar prior to the start of this academic year, some students have expressed issues with classes not being canceled for religious holidays such as Good Friday and Passover.
Elana Delafraz, a senior public relations major, is particularly distraught about the change to the academic calendar. She has chosen to go home to participate in the Seders (ceremonial dinners which are a highlight of the eight day Jewish celebration) with her family. In past years, the eight-day holiday has often coincided with Hofstra’s spring break, but this year that is not the case. “Religion is more important than missing one class, and community [is the] most important aspect of Judaism for me,” Delafraz said.
Delafraz also expressed that she wishes there could have been more student input on the issue. “Hofstra needs to take their student body into consideration,” she said. With all of the dietary restrictions Passover creates, Delafraz fears that she is “not going be able to eat anything” when she returns to campus.
For Angelina Corozzo, a junior biology major, this change is not only a big adjustment for herself, but for her family as well. Corozzo went home for the holidays in previous years, and struggled with the decision to miss her classes or join her family; she ultimately decided to go home to ensure family traditions were not disrupted.
Professor of accounting, taxation and legal studies Stuart Bass, said the decision to switch to a new academic calendar was not one that was taken lightly. Discussions started roughly nine years ago, he said, when a survey was sent to faculty and students asking if they wanted the calendar to change from the previous academic calendar. Students felt two to one that the calendar in place at the time was better, while faculty were split.
Another survey yielded similar results a few years after the initial one. Given the university’s increased diversity, and the fact that President Stuart Rabinowitz gave the go-ahead, faculty government decided to change to a secular calendar.
While students no longer have off for all of the religious holidays, Professor Bass feels it is important that students still feel protected and are able to celebrate them. Professors are not allowed to assign big tests or assignments on holidays, he said, and if this calendar becomes problematic, faculty government will work on fixing it. However, he “doubts it won’t work.”
Associate professor of accounting, taxation and legal studies and chair of the senate executive committee, Eugene Maccarrone, was initially not a big fan of the change. Given that that the previous calendar had been around for most of the university’s history, he didn’t see a pressing need to change it. Maccarrone accepts the new calendar, which is in place partly because of Hofstra’s rising diversity, and the fact that the university does not “want to favor one group over another.”
Not all Hofstra students are upset with the change. Tal Weiss, a senior computer science major, is not especially bothered by not having off for the holidays and the Passover Seders. Weiss, who considers himself “traditional” and “not as devout as most Jews,” says he understands why more religious people would be upset with the change.
“For secular Jews like myself, it is not a big deal … The new calendar has its pros and cons for the school; and for people who might not celebrate, it could make the school year go faster and keep students in the workflow,” Weiss said. “With breaks, they have to get readjusted.”
Weiss added that devout Jewish students and students who are concerned about missing either classes or the Seders can go to the Seders at Hillel. He said, “It’s not going [to] be like your parent’s cooking, but it’s there.”