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Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the starting instruction date for any University of California campus with a quarter system will be bumped down to Oct. 2 to avoid conflict with the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, effectively lengthening summer break by one week and shortening winter break to just two weeks.
The change aims to comply with a University-wide policy established in 2007 to avoid having instructional periods on religious holidays. However, it will only affect UC campuses using the quarter system, meaning that UC Berkeley and Merced, which use the semester system, will maintain their current schedules. Currently, students from the multiple campuses with quarter scheduling are passing around an online petition, started by UC Davis student Alfredo Amaya on www.change.org, seeking to keep the three-week winter break of years past. Petition requests consist of pushing the first day of instruction for Winter 2015 from Jan. 5 to Jan. 12. It also asks that the first day of instruction for Spring 2015 be moved from March 30 to April 6.
Office of the President spokeswoman Brooke Converse said the policy was created by the UC Office of the President, but the academic calendar is created by the Registrar’s Office at each campus. Converse said the scheduling change is not permanent, and previous changes have been made for Muslim holidays as well.
“The campuses on the quarter system work together to find a calendar that will work with the various requirements. Some of those requirements include the religious holiday policy, the number of days of instruction required, residence hall turnover time and more,” Converse said in an email.
The religious holiday policy came to being by former UC President Robert Dynes in a 2007 letter addressed to the UC chancellors in June of that year.
“This policy is adopted by the University as a result of conflicts that have arisen over the years, including in the fall of 2006, between fall residence hall move-in days and the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” Dynes said in the letter.
According to Dynes, a solution was formed under the collaborative efforts by the “representatives of the Jewish community and members of the California Legislature.”
Rabbi Evan Goodman, executive director of Santa Barbara Hillel, said the policy carries high significance to not only the students at UCSB, which has the highest population of Jewish students of any UC campus, but the entire University community.
“It’s not about whether there are Jewish students there; it’s about cultural sensitivity,” Goodman said. “I’m glad that the University is culturally sensitive to the needs of a wide variety of students coming from different traditions. So whether we are talking about one Jewish student, or one Christian student, or one Muslim student or any other student — it’s developing policies on a calendar that is sensitive to the needs of the student body.”
According to the letter, the proposed changes to accommodate the three-week winter break proposal will not disturb the UC’s goal of avoiding conflict with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and will simultaneously benefit students who utilize the break to “spend time with their friends and families,” “earn some extra money in order to help pay for school and living expenses” and “relax and rest [students’] mind and bodies in order to begin the following Winter and Spring Quarters.”
The petition letter is addressed to UC President Janet Napolitano as well as the Board of Regents and currently has over 22,000 supporting signatures so far. The petition will need a total of 50,000 signatures.