Passover makeup day sparks controversy

The college registrar sent out an email Friday afternoon announcing the makeup days for the classes canceled due to last week’s nor’easter—one of which falls on the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Passover, a Jewish holiday celebrating the liberation of ancient Israelites from Egyptian enslavement, takes place from March 30 to April 7 this year. Currently, the college’s official makeup day for the spring 2018 semester is on March 31, the second and most celebrated day of the religions eight-day-long celebration.

While faculty have the option to host makeup classes on May 1, May 2, or any other day classrooms are available, some Jewish students on campus are upset by the current schedule’s implications.  

Long-time Hillel member Scarlett Shiloh said they were surprised that the Registrar made no acknowledgment of the holiday in his email.

“I was upset for not only the Jewish community on campus, but also the communities of any religion that isn’t Christianity or Catholicism,” Shiloh said. “You wouldn’t schedule a makeup day on Christmas, you wouldn’t schedule a makeup day on Easter. Why would you schedule it on Passover?”

While Hillel President Sofia Barrett acknowledged there are other options available, she knows that attending the mandatory makeup day could still be tricky for some students.

“Passover is one of the most important holidays of the Jewish religion,” Barrett said. “I know a lot of people for such an important holiday go home because they want to spend it with their family.”

Emerson’s policy on religious observance states that “students who are unable, because of religious beliefs, to attend class or participate in any examination, study, or class-related activity on a particular day should contact their instructors ahead of time to facilitate their absence without prejudice.”

In a phone interview, College Registrar William DeWolf said official makeup days are created a year in advance by a calendar committee. While he was surprised the committee didn’t realize the conflict, he stressed May 31 as just one option of many.

“That day is good for some and bad for others,” DeWolf said. “I doubt [faculty] will chose that [day].”

Former Chair of the Calendar Committee Robert Colby said there is a limited number of Saturdays in the year to use as makeup days, so scheduling is tricky.

“You think there’s a lot of Saturdays that you could use as a makeup day, but when you factor out the ones you’re already using for other campus activities, like accepted students events, you kind of wind up with a really small number of them,” Colby said. “And if the spring holiday snow is bad, it can really be tricky.”

Currently, Barrett has a makeup day scheduled for May 31.

“I just want some acknowledgment of the Jewish community that was hurt by this,” Shiloh said.

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