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Friday, August 12, 2022

After Gabriela Mayer had to take a materials course exam while fasting for Yom Kippur, she came up with the idea for a petition.

The UF civil engineering junior said she circulated a written petition three weeks ago asking UF not to schedule exams on Jewish holidays. On Monday, an online petition was made. As of press time, the online petition has about 900 signatures and the written petition has about 450 signatures.

Mayer, 20, said she chose to take the exam while fasting for the Jewish holiday. If she didn’t, she’d either have to take the exam at the end of the semester before finals or take it at a time that conflicted with a class.

"It’s not fair to put yourself out there and say, ‘I’m Jewish, so I can’t take an exam on this day,’ and be behind in all your other classes because you’re choosing religion instead of education," she said.

UF biochemistry junior Jonah Stein said he created the online Google form, which asks students to enter their name and UFID.

Stein, 20, said while he appreciates UF’s commitment to allowing makeup exams, it’s not enough to accommodate Jewish students.

"It seems like the best overall solution is to just not have exams on Jewish holidays," Stein said.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando wrote in an email that UF Provost Joseph Glover sent a memo Wednesday reminding faculty of UF’s religious observances policy. It encourages faculty to accommodate students’ religious observances and give a reasonable amount of time to make up work.

Students cannot be penalized for absences due to religious observances, according to the memo.

UF family, youth and community sciences sophomore Danielle Goguen said she saw the petition on Facebook. The Campus Crusade for Christ member said while she supports students not taking exams on religious holidays, she thought it would be difficult for UF to reschedule them, especially during finals.

"I definitely think they deserve the time off to properly practice their religious or spiritual days," the 19-year-old said.

Rabbi Adam Grossman, the CEO of UF Hillel, said it would be a sign of good faith from UF if professors did not schedule exams on Jewish holidays, especially on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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"It is a major difficulty for students to have to choose between taking an exam or celebrating their religious observance," he said.

Grossman said the students who started the petition are a representation of UF’s Student Body.

"Empowered leaders who are taking this on as a mission are exactly what personifies the University of Florida and the talents that are there," he said.

Contact Alexandra Fernandez at afernandez@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @alexmfern

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