By Shannon Nia Alomar
For years Hofstra has abided by a Judeo-Christian Calendar, but the University Senate has recently explored the possibly of introducing a secular calendar to the University’s academic planning. Due to this probable change, the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic calendars were rejected at a recent Full University Faculty meeting.
The basic distinction between a Judeo-Christian calendar and a secular calendar surrounds the observance of religious holidays. Presently, Hofstra is conscious of these holidays and pays homage to students of these distinctions by having no school on those particular days.
Stuart L. Bass, Hofstra professor and chair of the Senate Executive Committee, spoke to the recent debate and revealed that the calendars were rejected with a very slim marginal vote. But, if someone had called for quorum, the meeting would have been suspended.
Two of the main concerns at the meeting were there not being enough snow days and faculty being unhappy with the holidays in the beginning of the academic school year interfering with their ability to teach effectively in September without interruption.
“Many faculty members are arguing that the Jewish holidays start, for example, in early September or as they did last year, three days after school started. It breaks up the pedagogy, which I see no merit to, but you have to respect the opinion of the faculty members,” Bass said.
Bass said the intentions of reaching a fair decision is what the senate plans to achieve. In addition to the senates’ opinion, the faculty, student body, staff and overall University community feedback is an important dynamic to be examined as well.
“Two major surveys were sent out to the student body, as well as the faculty. In both occasions, the faculty were virtually spilt as to keeping the current calendar as is or to go to a secular calendar. It was spilt almost 50/50. The student responses were overwhelmingly in favor of retaining the current calendar situation,” Bass said.
A common thread amongst the students support for the current calendar system reflects the students’ appreciation for the various days off from school that are related to the religious holidays.
Ariana Queenan, a junior journalism major, supports the University’s use of a non-secular calendar because she believe it is a commonly utilized calendar and provides respect for students who observe religious holidays.
“Honestly, if this change occurs I want to be the one to sign a petition to reverse the decision. It is ridiculous and downright disrespectful,” Queenan said. “Being away from home for many is already so difficult. We miss birthdays, celebrations and numerous other special events, so to not give the students the courtesy of having the option of travel home during sacred holidays is indecent of the University and everyone who serves on University Senate.” Queenan also said, “The Mayan calendar is non-secular and atheist are still in the minority in this country. By switching our calendar to secular are we not conforming to their religious views.”
Lyndsey Shulman, first-year video and television major, also strongly disagrees with the possibility of turning over to a secular calendar in the future.
“I feel that the change to a secular calendar is a little short sighted towards those who observe. Since I observe the Jewish holidays, this change would be an inconvenience. I would have to miss many of my classes during certain times of the year, and it is already hard for me to keep certain traditions while in school,” Shulman said. “I prefer the current set up of the calendar because it allows for me to observe the holidays and not fall behind in my work. Also, one of the reasons I chose Hofstra is because of the diversity present here and I feel that this decision would eliminate this positive quality the school possesses.”
Shulman said that while some of the faculty is in favor of the change, she thinks they would end up being unhappy with students missing classes for holiday reasons. “Not to mention the members of the faculty who also observe, and have to miss class,” she said.
Bass and other members of the University Senate recognize the diverse nature of Hofstra’s demographics but they also realize that the face of the University is changing.
“Many other people, myself included, believes that there is a tremendous changing in the demographic makeup of the University. And of course, my concern was I believe in the current calendar as it is but if we were to go to the secular calendar, there would have to be some assurances that any students who chose to observe their respected religious observations would be in any way not be penalized. There would be no exams, no papers due, anything of that nature,” he said.
Some students, however, are indifferent about the change to the calendar. Sean Bates, sophomore journalism major, attempted to play devil’s advocate with the overall idea.
“Part of me is glad that we might switch to a general and non-preferential calendar system, but another part of me will sincerely miss the days off. I think it might be best to have more days of class, but students might prefer having more vacation days,” he said.
He went on to add, “But on the other hand, we’re here to learn and Judeo-Christian religions tend to get preferential treatment, so this would be a good equalizing move as well.” Bates thinks a secular calendar would be better for both schedules as well as keeping an equal environment for students who celebrate different holidays.
In terms of any immediate alterations, the University will not be making any changes to the upcoming academic calendar for 2015-16. The Senate would like to maintain stability for the students and allow them to go forward in the courses and follow the proposed calendar. However, a reevaluation will be conducted for the 2016-17 school year.