Spring break schedule change sparks discourse among students
Students shared their opinions about the additional day off for Passover.
Classes will be canceled on Wednesday, April 5, to accommodate students who observe Passover and require the time to travel before they start observing the holiday, per a Jan. 5 email to community members from Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Kim Godsoe. To make up for canceling class on that day, classes will be held on Wednesday, May 3, to provide instructors with the class time that would have been lost.
Although this change might seem insignificant, Godsoe explained that students will lose one study day before finals as a result of this adjustment to the spring 2023 calendar. May 3 was initially determined to be one of two study days, and now the only study day will take place on Thursday, May 4. Although students had one study day during the recent fall semester, the change has sparked concern for religious and academic equity.
Students took to the campus community app, Sidechat, to discuss their perspectives anonymously. Sidechat is an app users log into with their university emails to connect them with the rest of the student body to share university-related memes, jokes, and discussion. In this instance, many users utilized the platform to help the school justify the change, reminding users that Brandeis is a university “founded based on Jewish principles” and that it makes sense to have Jewish holidays off.
Defending the change by emphasizing Brandeis’ Jewish roots was a common point made by Sidechat users. “You CHOSE to come to a school that takes Jewish holidays off you guys were not [complaining] about all the other long weekends [sic] it was a mistake in the schedule to not get the most important night off [sic] I get why you’re annoyed but this is now unreasonable,” one user said. Another pointed out that “This is one off [sic] the ONLY schools in the country who accommodates Jews even Tulane who has a higher percentage of Jews doesn’t get Jewish holidays off please stop complaining about ONE day we get off that most schools don’t.”
These supportive comments, and ones similar to them, had high numbers of upvotes — the equivalent of a “like” on Instagram — and supportive responses, showing a tentative majority of students’ support. This establishes that many students on Sidechat agree that Brandeis, despite lacking an official religious affiliation, has notable ties to Judaic experience and culture — which should be reflected within the school’s calendar.
Despite this support, there were some instances where those from marginalized religious groups questioned if the connection between Brandeis and Jewish tradition was enough to take a Study Day out of the school’s calendar. A reply to the aforementioned comment states: “Is there a school that accommodates Muslims since we only have 2 holidays a year and they’re both a day long? No. So i [sic] guess we have the right to be mad about a study day that was taken out even though ya’ll could’ve simply gotten an excused absence like every other religion on campus does.”
However, this perspective received little support on Sidechat as students suggested that a university created on Muslim values would integrate Muslim holidays, in a similar way that Brandeis celebrates its Jewish ties and ensures that students have the ability to celebrate Passover promptly. Specifically, a user stated: “Brandeis was created based on Jewish values and with Judaism as one of its 3 dominating religions at its founding. This day off should be a given. I’m sure that any university that would’ve been created on Muslim values would do the same thing for Muslim holidays. Don’t discriminate & have a great day.”
Furthermore, one user suggested that this was how the schedule was supposed to be in the first place, had the University not made a mistake. The user believes that the majority of students engaging in this discourse are focusing on the wrong topic. They stated on Sidechat that students should be looking deeper into why the change needs to be justified “when typical school breaks are never questioned.”
Along with religious debate, there was also notable discussion on Sidechat over academic concern with some students worried about losing the May 3 study day. While some students from other religions felt unheard, some worried over the loss of free study time, concerned because “finals week is the week when everything is due” and losing a free day would hinder their ability to both finish outstanding work and study for intensive final exams.
Yet much like the religious discourse, these opinions had substantially less support on the app. Comments in support of the change suggested that overwhelmed and concerned students should use more time to study if one day would make a difference in their performances.
In fact, one of the most well-liked comments — with a high 96 upvotes — related to this issue states: “If you’re relying solely on study days to study for all you’re [sic] finals, you’re not gonna do well on them anyway so losing one study day will not make or break your grades. just [sic] stop complaining about it and use finals week to be continuously studying.”
While the change in the Spring Break schedule has caused some disagreements — those in disagreement showed concern about religious representation in campus practices — Sidechat shows recognizable student support for the alteration. Generally, users emphasized the importance of accommodating those who need to travel for Passover, understanding that it validates losing a few hours of studying for final exams.