SA votes down religious holiday resolution
A divided Student Association voted down a resolution urging the University at Albany to keep the religious holidays off for the following academic year.
Several weeks ago, Michael Christakis had announced to SA that the University was considering removing days off for the religious holidays, including three Jewish holidays and Easter.
Last week Gabrielle Picard sponsored the “Resolution to support the Jewish Holidays” with senators Correia, Eldridge, Holdridge, and Whitney co-sponsoring took to the floor where it was tabled until this week.
This week the senators took to the floor to defend their resolution to have the university support the Jewish Holidays.
After an intense back-and-forth between those Senators who supported the resolution and those who did not support the resolution, the resolution failed.
Fifteen senators voted against, while 10 voted for it and six abstained.
The debate revolved around fairness and inclusivity. Senators like Picard argued that removing the Jewish Holidays would harm the University’s goal of creating an inclusive campus.
“By you giving off holidays to groups of people, you are therefore expanding the groups of people that you’re including and catering and tailoring. So if you remove those from people that already have that right you are going backwards in the definition of inclusiveness,” Picard said.
Other senators argued that having the University celebrate one religious group over others is unfair and harms inclusivity.
Senator Nick Gonzales argued that it was not feasible to accommodate all religious holidays, and what the University should do is make faculty more aware of student’s religious dispositions.
Some senators argued that having the Jewish holidays off were unfair to other religious groups and harmed inclusivity on campus.
“We’re a public institution, there’s a separation of church and state,“ senator Tasnim argued. “If we recognize one religious holiday we need to be recognizing every single one and that’s not feasible.”
The detractors of this resolution also argued that having the university observe the Jewish holidays harms student’s academics.
“I have had different constituents come up to me, concerned about why they miss so many classes because of these holidays. And they’re behind on two or three classes because of this. That’s not fair either.” Senator Tasnim said.
While some Senators argued about academics, other argued about how the Jewish holidays would affect Jewish students on campus.
Senator Eldridge—one of the cosponsors of the resolution—said “people literally picked where they live because they were able to practice their religion freely here, as opposed to any other campus.”
Eldridge argued that removing the Jewish holidays would remove a selling point that attracts so many Jewish students to the UAlbany campus.
The Senators were not the only ones to speak. Many Jewish students came the SA to lobby to have the Jewish Holidays remain, such as UAlbany Hillel: a Jewish student group on campus.
The debate went on for nearly forty minutes before SA voted on the resolution, in which they voted against it.
“I think the purpose behind the resolution is important and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed, and I’m already speaking to colleagues about creating a resolution that does it in a way that doesn’t come across as negative or hostile and actually have discussion groups that accommodates all religions.” Senator Gonzales said after the resolution had failed.
“Essentially, people are allowed to not like it [the resolution] so I was not going to withdraw from the floor, they’re allowed to strike it down and if that is the echoing sentiment of the majority then it deserves to be struck down,” Senator Picard said after the resolution failed.