Finals on Saturdays cause conflict for sabbath-observant students

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By Kaleena Dwyer
For the Mitzpeh
@kaleenadwyer

 

Final exams start next Wednesday and every year one of the exam days falls on a Saturday, which causes some Jewish students at this university to struggle with working around Shabbat.

This university’s final exam guidelines allow students to reschedule exams for legitimate reasons. The 2016-2017 Undergraduate Catalog says, “It is the responsibility of the student to initiate the rescheduling or be responsible for taking the examination as originally scheduled.”

However, the only reason named on the website acceptable for rescheduling is if a student has more than three exams scheduled on the same day.

Shabbat starts Friday evening and goes until Saturday nightfall. “During that period, traditional Jews are not supposed to do forbidden work labor and one of the labors is writing,” said Director of Jewish Studies Charles H. Manekin.

Friday night finals are also a concern for students particularly in the fall semester because the sun goes down earlier this time of year.

Sophomore bioengineering major Thea Ornstein had a final scheduled Friday night last semester. “I spoke to the professor ahead of time, like a month before, and worked out a date to take the final,” she said.

Debra Kirsch, the administrative assistant for Jewish Studies, manages scheduling for the department. She gathers all of the courses well ahead of time and passing them along to the scheduling office.

Kirsch has worked at the university for 10 years and this has been an issue since she started. “It’s been happening as long as I’ve worked here,” she said. “They aren’t going to change it for everyone.”

Arianna Kigner, a sophomore biology major, has to arrange another time to take her final scheduled for Saturday this semester.

Kinger said she believes both Saturday and Sunday should be observed by the university. “I don’t think it’s a matter of Sunday vs Saturday, both are ‘religious days,’ so I think if one is then both should be.”

University administrators were contacted multiple times and did not offer a comment, but eventually directed all questions to the Maryland Hillel office.

Allison Buchman, director of operations at Maryland Hillel, said she often receives letters from students asking for help with rescheduling exams.

“I cannot comment on why finals are on Saturdays but to my knowledge rescheduling is not usually a problem,” said Buchman.

If students make arrangements with their professors, a religious observance qualifies as a legitimate reason to reschedule an exam.

“Any students who had any issues at all, if they approach their professor well in advance about something, then exceptions could be made,” said Kirsch.

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