The Stony Brook University is a state (public) university in New York. However, its official calendar shows Jewish, Christian and national holidays – but no Muslim holidays. The SBU is planning to immplement a new calendar next fall which will delete religious holidays that traditionally been days off, an earlier spring break, and possibly, days off for studying before finals week. The religious holiday which will be effected include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Purim and the Easter holidays – but not Christmas.
Vice Provost Charles Robbins maintains that students can ask to be excused in regards to their faith. He said the calendar is not meant to discourage people’s beliefs, but to organize scheduling, promote equal respect for all students and increase learning efficiency.
“We are trying to be respectful of all religions. We want to be equally welcoming to everybody,” says Robbins.
Dr. Norman Goodman, the Jewish professor of sociology at the university summed up the calendar change in two word: “It stinks”.
The father of a senior Jewish student said: “So now they are discriminating against the Jews. You’re playing a favorites by closing on Christmas and not on Yom Kippur“.
Israel’s North American Campus lobby group, Hillel, has sent a letter to Jewish students that appropriate religious services would be held on campus on all Jewish holidays removed from the Calendar. Rabbi Joseph Topek says “many students are affraid to report their religious identity to teachers in order to ask for make-up work“.
All five Chaplains representing different faith communities at the campus – have disagreed with the changes. Chaplain Sanaa Nadim says she is disappointed: “Because my dream was, after 23 year of service. that Muslim holidays would finally would be observed on the calendar“. She said: “I believe the administration is well intended. I believe we should have had, maybe, more conversation. More conversation and consensuses of people who are more involved in religious life on campus“.
According to Charles Robbins, out of 24,100 students at the campus; 8% are Muslims, 5% Jews, 5% Hindus, 4% Buddhists, 26% Roman Catholics, 24% other Christians and the remaining 28% students filled in “other/none” box.