Jewish students given ‘hard time’ on holidays

By Maria Tortorello

This is the holiest time of the year for Jewish people around the world. However, some NIU students are not going to be able to put their religion before their classes.

Several students have had problems with their teachers when it comes to choosing their classes or their religion.

“Teachers do not realize how important this time of year is to the Jewish students,” said Jordan Kagan, assistant director of Hillel.

The B’Nai Brith Hillel Foundation formed a policy for all higher education schools to adopt. The policy requires teachers not to penalize students because of their religious affiliation.

The policy was made to accommodate religion on the basis of such things as class attendance and the scheduling of exams and other major assignments.

As stated on page 16 of the 1993 fall schedule book of classes, if a student has a conflict, he or she should talk to the instructor. If the situation does not improve from there, the student has to take his or her problem to the chair of the department and if it is not handled after speaking to the chair, the dean of the college handles the situation.

However, if a student has to talk to the department chair and the dean, the student’s grade will already have been affected.

“If a student believes he or she is being denied an educational benefit, they can only do something after the grade,” Kagan said.

Rosalie Hewitt, acting associate provost said, “The student knows about the religious holiday before and should talk to the instructor in advance.”

Hewitt said this policy has been in effect for several years and for the most part is followed by teachers.

However, one Jewish student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has had problems in the past with being excused from classes because of a religious holiday.

“In my major and minor programs, you fail after three absences,” she said. “It doesn’t leave you any days to get sick if you take off for the Jewish holidays.”

She said the reason most students are having problems with teachers regarding religious holidays is because it is left up to the teacher to choose if a student should be relieved of his or her assignments.

“It should not be left up to the individual teacher,” she said. “It should be an NIU policy.”

Kagan said he realizes it is hard to get every religious holiday off.

“All we are asking is that NIU rules comply with state law,” he said. “Since 1985, I have seen several students given a hard time.”

“All we are asking is that NIU rules comply with state law. Since 1985, I have seen several students given a hard time (about Jewish Holidays).”

Jordan Kagan

assistant director of Hillel