University College is under fire after scheduling its convocation on a Jewish religious holiday. Set for June 10, the ceremony conflicts with the Jewish holiday Shavuot, which stretches from June 8–10. Students of Jewish faith are frustrated and are calling upon university administration to make reasonable arrangements and prevent similar conflicts from happening in the future.
Hillel U of T, a chapter of the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, told The Varsity that the conflict is disappointing for the university’s Jewish community and for graduating students.
“Hillel is troubled by this scheduling conflict. Unfortunately, this means that Jewish students will be forced to choose between attending their convocation and observing an integral Jewish holiday,” wrote Director of Advocacy for Hillel Ontario Ilan Orzy to The Varsity.
“We have raised this concern with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students and have asked them to consider rescheduling the convocation to a different date.”
According to university spokesperson Elizabeth Church, further accommodations will be made for students who are impacted by the scheduling conflict.
“We do our best to avoid conflicts with all dates of religious observance when planning convocation ceremonies,” she wrote in a statement to The Varsity.
Due to tight scheduling, the university will be holding 31 ceremonies over 15 days. Students have the option to attend a separate convocation ceremony due to religious observance.
“Graduates who choose to attend another ceremony because of religious observance are placed with others graduating with their degree, and they are presented, walk across the stage and collect their diploma in the same manner as other attending graduates,” wrote Church.
Under Governing Council’s Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances, the university acknowledges that a student should not be disadvantaged for observing religious holidays.
“It is the policy of the University of Toronto to arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays,” it reads.
Students, however, have the responsibility of informing administration in a timely fashion of any upcoming religious observances that may be in conflict.
The Vice-President & Provost is responsible for handling such policy, as well as for publishing information regarding anticipated annual religious holidays. However, there is no guarantee that there will not be important academic dates scheduled on those dates.
Orzy assures that any students who are negatively affected by the scheduling conflict can contact Hillel U of T to express any concerns to the administration there. University College has historically had a large Jewish community, since it was the only U of T college that was openly accepting of Jewish students until the late 1970s. Victoria College’s convocation is also scheduled for June 10.
The Varsity has reached out to Victoria College for comment.