UC Berkeley to provide religious accommodations during finals

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The spring 2019 semester finals — spanning May 13 to May 17 — will coincide with Ramadan, causing UC Berkeley to provide accommodations to students who observe the holiday.

Students will receive different accommodations based on what they request, according to campus spokesperson  Janet Gilmore. These accommodations can vary from having flexible scheduling of exams to providing spaces for students to participate in their religious practices. Cal Dining will also provide to-go meal options.

In an email to the campus community, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos said students will be responsible for communicating their needs to their professors by Feb. 15. He also encouraged collaboration between students and faculty to find “the best feasible solution” in each individual case.

“The campus believes strongly in implementing its campus priorities in real and tangible ways, specifically enhancing the student experience and creating equitable experiences for students,” Gilmore said in an email. “Ramadan accommodations is just one of the ways the university is responding and valuing the diversity on our campus.”

According to Gilmore, Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubon has consulted with various student groups across the campus community to ensure the student experience would be positive.

These accommodations were also addressed in an ASUC meeting held Jan. 30 in which members discussed and unanimously passed a bill demanding UC Berkeley provide students with flexibility and accommodations.

The resolution’s primary sponsor, ASUC Senator Imran Khan, said that taking exams during Ramadan is especially challenging for students as many finals are scheduled during the evening — a window in which students have an opportunity to break their fast.

“I think the accommodations will be very helpful in supporting students who are fasting, and will allow them to arrange to take the exams in a way that does not interfere with their religious practices,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay in an email. “I deeply appreciate the work of Senator Khan in making this happen.”

Khalfay also said in her email that the accommodations outlined should be sufficient for students who observe Ramadan as long as professors are “fully compliant” in meeting the needs expressed by their students.

Despite Khan’s appreciation for the accommodations — especially as a symbol for UC Berkeley’s receptiveness to students’ needs — Khan said in his email that the campus administration could have done more.

He added that the campus administration could have provided students who observe Ramadan with more “institutional support and a firmer stance,” such as working with the academic senate to promise students would not be denied accommodations.

Khan also said providing these accommodations is something students have a “fundamental right” to, and he added that the accommodations will have to continue, as Ramadan will fall during spring semester for the next few years.

“We are taking a continuous improvements approach to enhancing the student experience,” Gilmore said in her email. “It is our goal to create a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive campus for everyone.”

Mallika Seshadri is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.