Frosh Week for most

Orientation schedule altered for Rosh Hashanah, Eid

Frosh Week’s schedule will be slightly altered to better accommodate students observing Rosh Hashanah this fall, pending final approval by University Senate at its April 21 meeting.

Queen’s Hillel brought up the issue that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, coincides with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of faculty orientation.

Orientation is scheduled for Sept. 6 to 11.

The Senate Orientation Activities Review Board (SOARB), the Orientation Round Table (ORT) and Queen’s Hillel reached a compromise on Tuesday.

Hillel suggested switching residence and faculty orientation events so Jewish students who observe Rosh Hashanah would be able to participate in most faculty orientation events, spokesperson Joshua Zelikovitz said, adding that many students celebrate Rosh Hashanah with their families at home.

“The idea of flipping dates was that faculty orientation is a very formative experience whereas residence orientation is information-based and that information could be obtained at other times,” he said.

Although SOARB was in favour of the idea, ORT wanted to find another accommodation, Zelikovitz said.

The new accommodation proposed is to start faculty orientation on Tuesday, a day earlier than the original Wednesday start, and have a light day on Thursday where fewer events are scheduled, ORT Co-ordinator Sacha Gudmundsson said.

SOARB should put forward a motion to accept the alterations at Senate’s April 21 meeting, she added.

“We’re aware that Rosh Hashanah specifically will be falling in orientation week in … 2013,” Gudmundsson said. “What we’re going to be doing is helping set some kind of framework for how this can be dealt with in 2013.”

Zelikovitz said he thinks the accommodation is satisfactory.

“It hasn’t completely alleviated the conflict between Rosh Hashanah and faculty orientation, but it certainly has limited the number of events that students would miss,” Zelikovitz said. “While not perfect, it’s a big step from where we were.”

Hillel wants to work with the Student Affairs office to make longer-term plans to avoid future orientation week conflicts with religious observances, he said.

Safiah Chowdhury, incoming AMS president-elect and Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA) vice-chair, said orientation week events might also conflict with Eid celebrations this year.

Eid occurs twice in the lunar calendar and the one in September is on March 10, the Friday of orientation week.

Chowdhury said a few Muslim orientation leaders have approached her, saying they want to participate in Eid morning prayer on the Friday of orientation week and are seeking accommodation from the ORT so orientation events will be scheduled for after 11 a.m.

“The way it’s celebrated varies on the context, but the one consistency is the morning prayer, which is a time when the entire community comes together,” she said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of Muslims that come out for the Eid in Kingston and, in that sense, the prayer is very community-based and significant.”

Chowdhury said she and Gudmundsson are discussing the accommodation.

“It should be a possibility,” she said. “If not, there will probably have to be some discussions amongst the frosh leaders themselves to come up with an accommodation.”

Chowdhury said before coming to Queen’s, she e-mailed the ORT asking them to accommodate Muslims’ breaking of fast since Ramadan often coincides with orientation week events such as frosh group meals.

“Never once has it been accommodated,” she said. “Instead, as a frosh and later as a Gael, I had to make accommodations of my own, which often involved having to leave my frosh group.”

Chowdhury said, for example, she went to the cafeteria with her frosh group but didn’t eat and would later leave them to break fast with QUMSA members.

Instead of asking for meal accommodation this year, QUMSA will simply request the time change for the Friday of orientation week, she said.

“I’ve given up on that,” she said. “I’ll ask, but I don’t expect it to happen.”

Chowdhury said she hopes this year’s conflicts with Rosh Hashanah and Eid will highlight the importance of longer-term changes to how orientation week is organized.

“Hopefully this year will show the importance of taking into account faith calendars when setting sessional dates,” she said, adding that the discussion would happen at the Senate level by the committee that sets sessional dates.

“From my understanding, they don’t really look at any faith-based calendars,” she said. “They do look at Christmas, so it makes sense to look at Rosh Hashanah and Eid.”

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