York prof deems Jewish holiday policy unfair

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Students at York University have long had the pleasure of three days worth of class cancellations on Jewish holidays, but now an investigation from the Ontario Human Rights Commission has deemed the policy unfair.

According to York spokesperson Alex Bilyk, a case analysis report by an investigator was prepared for the commission due to a complaint by York history professor David Noble.

The report by investigator Kim Hanson alleges there is unequal treatment at York on the basis of “creed and association.”

Noble, self-identified as Jewish, claims York affords privileged accommodation to Jewish students, according to the report.

For 34 years, York cancelled classes on the two days of Rosh Hashanah and one day of Yom Kippur.

The report states: “The university’s practice of not scheduling classes on Jewish high holy days clearly results in differential treatment on the basis of creed, in that individuals in one group, those of Jewish faith, are given preferential treatment over others.”

A recent study by York professor Thomas Klassen estimates only 5.8 per cent of York’s 51,000-student campus is Jewish.

However, other York students do not necessarily mind missing class for Jewish holidays.

Second-year York film and English student Laura Wolfe does not know anyone who has an issue with the extra days off.

“Why would I complain about getting time off?” she said. “That’s just ridiculous.”

It is left up to the commission, based on the evidence in question, whether the subject matter of Noble’s complaint should be referred to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

“We have 21 days to respond to this case analysis which the commissioners will then consider,” Bilyk said.

Currently, York students of any religion can ask permission to be excused from class for a religious holiday.

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