Council weighs holiday options

Some religious days conflict with classes.
Friday, February 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:50 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three times a year, the simple act of going to class becomes an inner conflict of faith for MU junior Courtney Jakul.

“I would go to really important classes on religious holidays, and it made me feel really guilty,” Jakul said. “I grew up in a traditional family where we didn’t go to work or do anything on religious holidays except go to services.”

Jakul, president of the MU Jewish Student Organization, said the university has forced Jewish students to choose between academic success and personal beliefs.

“For Jewish students, it puts them in an awkward position,” she said.

On Thursday, the MU Faculty Council discussed a religious observances proposal that would address student concerns. Bill Lamberson, chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee, presented two options to the council addressing religious holidays and the academic calendar.

Option A would encourage faculty to excuse absences and allow make-up work for students observing religious holidays. Students would be responsible for informing faculty of a conflict between a religious holiday and class.

Option B would place more responsibility on faculty by encouraging them to schedule exams and assignments around major religious holidays.

The proposal stems from the MU Campus Climate study results, said professor Roger Worthington, the study’s principle investigator.

“One of the concerns about religious minorities is that their religious holidays have not been given consideration when they have to be absent for an exam or an assignment,” he said.

Interim Provost Lori Franz, who has also been involved in the study, said evening exams on high holy days have not only been an inconvenience for students but reflect poorly on MU.

Other provisions of the proposal would encourage faculty to add a religious observances statement to syllabi and to develop an interfaith calendar that is not overly inclusive.

Although Lamberson said Academic Affairs preferred Option B, a majority of the council expressed a preference for Option A at Thursday’s meeting.

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