U.C. shifts academic calendar for Rosh Hashanah

The University of California system has shifted its academic calendar for the start of a new term to avoid a conflict with the High Holy Days.

The change, which affects the seven U.C. campuses on a quarterly system, means that campus move-in days will not be in conflict with Rosh Hashanah, the California Aggie, the daily student newspaper of the U.C. Davis, reported.

The term will begin on Oct. 2, a week later than usual, and winter break will last two weeks instead of three. This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sept. 24; Yom Kippur begins at sundown Oct. 3, which is a Friday.

The change in the schedule was affected in order to comply with a U.C. policy that aims to avoid religious holiday conflicts with residence hall “move-in” days. The policy was created in 2007 following complaints the previous year from the Jewish community, when move-in days conflicted with the High Holy Days, according to the Modesto Bee.

The policy last affected the start of the school year in 2009, when late August move-in days for U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Merced, which operate on the semester system, conflicted with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Because they are on a semester calendar, those two schools will not be affected by this year’s shift, with fall classes scheduled to start on Aug. 28.

Jim Atkins, executive director of Hillel at U.C. Santa Cruz, told the Modesto Bee that the change will make a big difference to Jewish students.

“It’s really important to the Jewish faith; it’s like Christmas,” he said of the High Holy Days. “It’s not like students expect to have every Jewish holiday off. But it’s this awful conflict. If it’s the beginning of the year and you don’t show up, sometimes you get kicked out of the class.”

Some 3 percent of students on the 10 U.C. campuses identify as Jewish, according to a 2010 U.C. Undergraduate Experience Survey.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the move was met with mixed reaction.  Some international students told the Daily Bruin, the UCLA student newspaper, that the shortened vacation could make it difficult for them to travel home over the winter break. Other students said they wished they had three weeks off rather than two. Jewish students said they appreciated the change. — jta and j. staff