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The faculty, at its November 16 meeting, approved a Faculty Policy Committee (FPC) recommendation and moved an already-scheduled one-day holiday in September so that it coincides with the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanah.
Professor Robert L. Jaffe, chairman of the MIT faculty, offered the motion, which needed and received a three-fifths vote of approval.
A letter to the faculty from the FPC, included with the call of the meeting, said that the new academic calendar approved in May 1993 includes a holiday during September in five out of seven years to provide balance between the fall and spring terms.
"Over the past few months, several individuals have brought to the Registrar's, the President's, or the Faculty Chair's attention the fact that during the next academic year the September Monday class holiday (September 18) falls one week before the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah (September 25). They suggested moving the holiday to the 25th to coincide with Rosh Hashanah."
The vote was specific to the 1995 calendar. The FPC intends to introduce a motion at a meeting next spring that would give the registrar (with advice from the FPC) the authority to establish the specific date of future Monday holidays between Labor Day and Columbus Day.
Professor George F. Koster of the Department of Physics spoke against the motion, saying that it was a "dangerous precedent" to change faculty regulations to accommodate a religious group. He said Policies and Procedures states that no student should suffer for religious beliefs. The policy states that those who miss class on a religious holiday would be excused and given the opportunity to make up the missed work.
Professor Richard J. Cohen, director of the Biomedical Engineering Center, spoke in favor of the motion, saying it was appropriate for the Institute to address the matter. He said changing the date would not alter the academic schedule in any significant way.
In other business, the faculty approved without comment motions to create masters of engineering programs in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Both plans were described in detail at the October meeting and held over a month for a vote to ensure time for additional discussion.
A version of this article appeared in the November 30, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 13).