As the end of Spring 2017 draws near, students begin preparing for finals. But for Muslim students on campus, finals week overlaps with their holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and in 2017 goes from May 27 to June 26. It is expected that every Muslim fasts from sunrise to sunset every day during this month, with exceptions for children, elderly people and pregnant women. The fast involves going without food and drink along with other things such as lying or cursing. This leaves many Muslim students feeling weak, and at many times, disadvantaged when taking their final exams.
“Obviously it is a choice that we make because we are followers of this faith, but at the same time that should not be a reason that we are at a disadvantage here at this school,” English junior and Muslim student Ibrahim Zobi said. “Despite being surrounded by people in higher academics and people who are supposed to have studied other religions and cultures, many faculty members seemed to not know or even mention it. And of course no one is really comfortable asking for any sort of accommodations. It’s just something that would be appreciated.”
The Muslim Student Association drafted a letter to President Jeffrey Armstrong to see if there were any accommodations for students fasting during finals. Ultimately, Armstrong said the Academic Senate came to an agreement not to single out any group or their holidays, according to Zobi.
“…I believe [this] is an issue because Cal Poly has identified that they have a diversity problem. But when a group of students [bring] up Cal Poly’s issues and has said, ‘Hey, so this is what’s going on and here are some ideas.’ They don’t have to do them all, but the main thing is just to acknowledge that this is going on and to have faculty on board. It would just be nice if people were just aware of this,” Zobi said.
Several ideas were presented in the letter written to Armstrong, including accommodated test times and more meal options later at night. However, the letter also stated they were thankful for any help and ideas the university was willing to offer.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) took steps to help students who felt disadvantaged due to cultural differences. Recently, a bill was presented to ASI that would create a Social Justice and Equity Committee. However, it did not pass. The bill would have created a standing committee within ASI to discuss how to provide a more equitable and holistic campus for students, Board of Directors chair and ASI President-elect Riley Nilsen said.
“It would also provide them with a platform to discuss different issues that our students might be facing and it can be anything from diversity to mental health to veterans; those were kind of the ideas that were thrown around with the creation of the committee,” Nilsen said. “But unfortunately, the bill did not pass because a lot of the students, including students that are marginalized and do come from those represented groups, didn’t think that this is the best way for ASI to approach this issue.”
While the bill didn’t pass and there are not going to be any campus-wide changes specifically for Muslims during Ramadan, the idea behind the bill will move forward.
“So they urge for next year the board take more time to investigate and explore opportunities for us to best represent all students on campus and especially the individuals who feel that they don’t have equal representation,” Nilsen said.