Tuesday, April 1, 2008

York University accomodation of Jewish Students under attack

For the last 34 years York University has had a policy of closing for up to three days each year for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippor. When this policy began a large percentage of students and professors would take these days off anyways.

York History Professor and non-practising Jew, David Noble has been a long time detractor of York's policy. He filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission claiming it was unfair in a multicultural society to accommodate one group's religious beliefs.

A report on the topic has been prepared for the Human Rights Commission. It concluded that the policy is discriminatory because it provides preferential treatment based on creed. York University has a policy that no student is to be penalized for keeping their religious holidays.

Hopefully the HRC will be able to take more factors into consideration when making their decision. The Jewish calendar works in such a way that in a four week period around September/October religious Jewish students could end up missing a total of 7 days worth of classes to religious holidays. This can be a tremendous strain at the beginning of the school year or approaching midterms. Having the extra 3 days off worry free helps reduce the problems created from trying to play catch up. There are many students who take this rule into consideration when they choose York over the universities that do not offer such accommodation.

York University is closed for all Christian holidays. They are even closed on Easter Monday which is a holiday not recognized by the private sector. The accommodation provided by York simply reverses indirect discrimination created by the nature of the regular calendar.

The HRC should also take into consideration who has launched the complaint. If the complaint came from or was supported by other religious groups who are being discriminated against, it would have a lot more credibility. This appears to be a case of someone upset that any religious accommodation would be offered to anyone.

Hopefully the HRC will rule wisely in such a way that will allow the rule to stand. The Public school system already supports Catholic beliefs above all others. It would be a shame to for university administrators to carry out the same level of discrimination.


Sergei said...

My wife has an exam today. We can't be together and celebrate Easter because this exam. But what about exams at Jewish holidays? NO WAY. All - rescheduled! Mandatory! Everybody is talking about antisemitism. May be it is a time to talk about antichristianism?

ehwhy said...

Your information is incorrect. My BIL and SIL are still at York and the policy for exams on Jewish holidays has always been the same.

York has never made an effort to make sure exam didn't conflict with Jewish holidays. The holidays that they used to recognize (Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippor) do not fall during exam time. In order to have the exam moved a note is required from your Rabbi. The exam would be rescheduled on an individual basis.