1000 Petition Against Graduation Date
Commencement Occurs on Jewish Holiday
More than 1000 students and professors have singed a petition urging the University to change the date of 1984's Commencement because it conflicts with the Jewish holiday, Shavuos.
Protestors contend that the June 7 Commencement date will force them to break Jewish law. They also complain that the University has been insensitive in its discussions with them.
Several student organizations, including the Undergraduate Council, the Law School Council, and the Business School Council have also passed motions to change the June 7th Commencement date.
Although the student groups plan to continue pressing the issue, they say they are not optimistic about Harvard agreeing to changing the date.
"It seems like a case of discrimination," said Yadin B. Kaufmann, president of the Harvard Jewish Law School Association, "There are plenty of others days to choose from, and the university has been so insensitive as to choose a Jewish holiday. I think this is an issue of Harvard placing itself before God and country."
Shavuous is a holiday observed by conservative and orthodox Jews.
Many of the protestors say they feel the University has been unsympathetic to their heritage by neglecting this holiday, the commemoration of God's gift of the Ten Commandments to Moses.
Noting that students first complained of the conflict in fall 1982, Kaufmann said, "the argument that its too late to change things doesn't hold water," adding "The University knew about it when it was much easier to change the date."
MIT, Columbia and Yale all avoided Shavuous when planning their commencements. MIT made the change, last April, after students first complained at Harvard, Kaufmann said.
But Vice President Daniel Steiner '54 pointed out yesterday that unlike MIT, Columbia, and Yale, Harvard's commencement is part of seven days of activities, not an isolated date. Many other arrangements revolve around that date.
"Literally thousands of people have already made hotel reservations for commencement," said Steiner. The University has reserved other facilities as part of the exercises and reservations for Symphony Hall are not easy to change even a year in advance, according to Steiner. Steiner said he consulted several rabbis who said that people could observe the holiday and attend commencement on the same day.
Explaining why Commencement could be held on Shavous, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg of New Jersey said in a letter to Steiner. "This holiday is a particularly auspicious time for educational achievement to be celebrated."
However, Rabbi Moses Feirstein, who is recognized as an expert in Jewish law is New York, has issued a prohibition against attending commencement exercise on a Jewish holiday, according to second year Business School student Leon M. Meuger.
Steiner believes that very few people would be affected by the conflict. "At chest there are 30 students from all the schools for