UC Riverside will be shortening the length of winter break from three weeks to two this upcoming school year as a direct response to a UC policy requiring universities to change their academic calendars to avoid conflicts with the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s a move that has gained some support from members of the UC community, but has also garnered criticism from students who argue that the change is inconvenient for those not affiliated with the holidays.
The Jewish holidays sometimes take place during move-in day at quarter-based UCs. Members of the Jewish community expressed concern over the UC move-in day, which overlapped with the holidays back in 2006. A year later, the UC implemented a policy that would go into effect in fall of 2014, which would shift move-in day up one week since it will take place during Rosh Hashanah. This means that instead of having move-in day during the third week of September 2014, students will move into residence halls during the final week of the month.
This, in turn, creates a domino effect in scheduling: Fall quarter instruction at UCR will start on Oct. 2, 2014; instruction will end on Dec. 12; the last day of finals week will be Friday, Dec. 19; and winter break will officially start on Monday, Dec. 22. All dates take place one week later than they normally would. But the start of the winter quarter in 2015 will take place around the same time it usually does: Jan. 2, 2015. In all, the shift in scheduling means that the length of winter break shrinks from three weeks to two, but summer break will last longer for students.
Because Rosh Hashanah is based on the lunar calendar, it isn’t a fixed date. This means that the UCs in the quarter system will return to three-week winter breaks in 2015. The late start to the fall quarter won’t be seen again until 2020.
UCs in the quarter system will see the most drastic change to their academic calendars since the move-in days of those universities will conflict with the celebration of the Jewish holidays this year. The calendars of UCs in the semester system will be unaffected, however, since their move-in schedules do not conflict with the holiday celebrations.
The scheduling change has created a stir among some UC students. Last week, an online petition was created on change.org, which asked the UC not to go through with the scheduling move. The petition expresses outrage toward university officials and argues that it “isn’t fair” to make a drastic change for the entire student body given that the holidays only affect a limited number of people in the UC.
An excerpt from the petition reads: “We, as students, use this break to spend time and reconnect with our friends and families during the holiday season, while others use it to earn some extra money to help pay for school and living expenses.” As of press time, the petition has collected over 20,000 signatures.
Not all are condemning the change. UCR associate professor of religious studies Michael Scott Alexander supports the fact that the UC is taking measures to accommodate students who celebrate the religious holiday.
“I’m glad the administration is dedicated to religious diversity, it’s a key component of UCRs cultural diversity,” said Alexander in a statement to the Highlander.
Move-in day for fall 2014 at UCR is scheduled for Sept. 28, two days after the end of Rosh Hashanah.