Yom Kippur, OSU and the GT

About a month ago, my friend Eric put up a post on Yom Kippur and OSU, pointing out that of all the OUS schools, only UO had chosen not to have classes on Yom Kippur (this year, the 28th of September), and that the statewide Provost’s Council had discussed the issue five years ago (see Eric’s post for links).  I don’t know exactly what prompted Eric to put up the post when he did, but I have a guess:  Fast-forward to 2009, and OSU is sending out emails and making announcements about how it’s not going to have classes on Yom Kippur in the future, etc etc.  From the GT:

Oregon State University classes start Monday – and that day also marks Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, and a time reserved for prayer and reflection. The devout typically don’t work or go to school.

OSU and the Oregon University System have changed their policies for future years, however, so that fall term doesn’t start on a religious holiday, said Terryl Ross, OSU’s director of the Office of Community and Diversity.

For me, it would have been nice if the reporter covering the story had done some research, or even asked – and followed up on – the basic question of why OSU was having classes while UO was not, how and when that decision was made.  But he didn’t, and I wasn’t surprised, and I just sort of chalked it up to the understaffed GT, the reporter in question, and the paper’s tendency to never say anything negative about OSU. More or less par for the course.

Then the GT wrote an editorial praising the university’s decision going forward, and I was much less accepting of the whole thing.  The editorial:

It’s a scheduling embarrassment for OSU and most of the other schools in the Oregon University System, but university officials did something refreshing last week: They admitted they messed up, and pointed to a new policy under which school terms in the future won’t start on a religious holiday.

Interestingly, the editorial made no mention of when the decisions to have or not have classes on Yom Kippur were made.  I was a bit surprised.

The editorial was written on Yom Kippur, last Monday.  Fast forward to Friday’s editorial:

RASPBERRIES to the Gazette-Times, which should have been a little more careful about an editorial this week, and the Oregon University System, for dragging its feet on fixing a scheduling conflict.

However, after Monday’s editorial appeared, an alert reader sent us a copy of minutes from an August 2004 meeting of the Oregon University System’s Provosts’ Council. One of the topics discussed at that meeting more than five years ago was the fact that in 2009, university system classes would start on the same day as Yom Kippur; in fact, the council considered a proposal at that meeting to start classes a week earlier, on Sept. 21.

Kudos to the GT for acknowledging missing part of the story, though they should have got it right the first time.  And boo on OSU, indeed, for pretending Yom Kippur – a holiday that had been discussed five years ago in the context of scheduling classes, and can be predicted years in advance anyway – snuck up on them.  I  hope someone tells Terryl Ross.

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