Every Yale student is faced with the formidable task of juggling academics, extracurricular activities and free time. But some religious students find it more difficult to fit one aspect of their lives into the scholastic mold.
“Imagine going to a class where the exam is given on the holiest day of your year, and the professor says, ‘Take it or fail,'” Yale University Chaplain Frederick Streets said.
To help alleviate this potential problem, the University Chaplain’s Office has ordered copies of a calendar that highlights the most important religious events of many popular religions. The calendars, produced by the National Conference of Community and Justice, will be distributed to the Residential Colleges Deans’ Offices.
Streets said he knows of students who have encountered problems with rescheduling exams that fall on holy days. The calendars, he said, will provide a way for students to demonstrate unequivocally that they have a conflict on a given day. It will also give professors a chance to plan ahead.
“In a visual way, it reminds us all of the importance of religious holidays in our planning,” Streets said.
Ayalon Eliach ’06, an observant Jewish student, said none of his professors have ever objected to his missing class for a holiday. He said he has found his professors to be very cooperative.
Eliach said the calendar might be more useful to students whose religious holidays are less known at Yale.
“In theory, [the calendar] would be helpful,” he said. “I assume that Jewish holidays are more well known at Yale than many other religious holidays.”
Fatema Al-Arayedh ’07, social chair of the Muslim Student Association, said she encountered a serious conflict in her first year at Yale. She and many other Muslim students celebrate a holiday commemorating the life of the family of the prophet Mohammad, an observance that coincided with midterms last year, Al-Arayedh said.
“We approached our deans, who were very understanding, and we all received excuses,” she said.
But Al-Arayedh said she would have preferred to avoid the difficulties from the start.
Now, she said, the calendar will help students and professors better plan for the Muslim holidays that change each year.
“It definitely seems to be a better approach to religious life at Yale,” she said.