Academia, Campus, News

On high holidays, students and professors at odds over absences

Even as the sun sets today on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, members of the Boston University community say the conflict between professors and students over balancing religious observance and academic responsibilities continues.
About 2,000 students attended services for Rosh Hashanah this year, but more students probably wanted to attend BU Hillel House Director Rabbi Joseph Polak said.’
‘Every year, there is always one student who comes to me afterwards and says, ‘I wanted to be there, but I had this class I couldn’t miss,” Polak said. ‘In my 39 years here, there has always been at least one cranky professor who doesn’t know that BU requires him to let the students miss class for the holiday.’
Former BU President John Silber once moved the whole academic calendar back a week because classes were scheduled to start on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Polak said.’
College of Communication sophomore Justin Premo said efforts to avoid discrimination came at the expense of other students, however.
‘I’m not Jewish, but my professor is,’ Premo said. ‘He didn’t come to class, but he sent a [teaching assistant] to read the lecture slides. The material that was covered was tough, and I don’t know if it was fair for any of us.’
Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences junior Sofiya Erman said she appreciates BU’s efforts to force professors to excuse students on holidays.
‘Some professors, especially in smaller classes, are very understanding,’ she said.’ ‘Others don’t want to make exceptions, so you get one or two absences, then you’ve reached your quota no matter what.’
Erman said she missed a review session for her midterm and had to turn in a paper early in order to attend services on Rosh Hashanah. She will also have to miss services marking the start of Yom Kippur because of a test.
‘I don’t have another choice,’ Erman said.’ ‘We get off for secular holidays like Columbus Day, but I wish we got Rosh Hashanah instead. Columbus didn’t even discover America.’


  1. People from every religion should be able to take their religious day off and not be penalized for it. I am not saying everyone should get the day off as in businesses close down or whatever, just that if people are required to spend a day in temple/church/mosque etc they should be able to without any negative repercussions.

  2. No, we could just get less days of for other holidays. Columbus Day isnt needed, nor is 5 days for thanksgiving.

  3. Justin Premo is an anti-semite.