UC students oppose shorter winter breaks for quarter-system campuses

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A one-week reduction of winter break across most UC campuses to avoid conflict with Jewish holidays has sparked significant opposition from thousands of students who claim that two weeks is not enough time to rest and recuperate.

The 2014 fall quarter for most UC campuses will start Sept. 29, a week later than usual, and end Dec. 19 to accommodate for the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The following quarter is scheduled to begin Jan. 5, giving students a two-week vacation.

UC Berkeley and UC Merced, which are on the semester system, will not be affected by the change.

The move complies with a UC systemwide policy, created in 2007 under former UC President Robert Dynes, which states that UC campuses should “avoid scheduling fall residence hall move-in days for students that conflict with the observance of a major religious holiday.”

This policy aims to give students “equal access” to orientation activities, said UC spokesperson Brooke Converse.

But some students argue the change is unfair to those who want to spend time with family or need to earn extra money over the break to contribute toward their tuition fees.

In an attempt to restore the three-week winter break, UC Davis student Alfredo Amaya created an online petition last month, addressed to UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC Regents, that asks the UC to postpone the start of 2015 winter quarter by a week. So far, it has reached more than 28,000 signatures, with more than 21,000 signatures still needed.

Online, students cited various reasons for signing the petition. Some disapproved of the reduction in time that could be spent resting or working, while others were concerned that the university is making a major change for one particular religious group.

“In the end, these changes would benefit everyone,” Amaya said in his appeal for student support. “Our families would also benefit by being able to be with their students who moved away in order to continue their education.”

Although this type of change is a first, there have been changes made to the calendar to accommodate holidays of different religions in the past, Converse said. In 2009, UC Berkeley and UC Merced adjusted their calendars to avoid the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

According to Converse, if the 2015 winter quarter were pushed back, Cesar Chavez Day on March 31 would fall during finals week, which cannot be shortened. The calendars are also decided about five to seven years in advance, and changing the schedule would cause issues with conferences on campus that have already been booked, Converse said.

“There just isn’t an option for doing what the students are asking, though we understand what their perspectives are,” Converse said.

Somin Park is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_sominpark.