An email from the Office of the Provost on Jan. 11 notified students that faculty members had been informed to give proper academic accommodations to students celebrating the Lunar New Year.
“In order to prepare for another successful term, we asked faculty to remember that January 21 is the start of the Lunar New Year followed by New Year’s Day on January 22, and to accommodate students who celebrate the Lunar New Year,” the email states. “Please connect with your instructors, in advance, of your plans so that they can make the necessary accommodations.”
This statement comes a year after a conflict where student Brendon Tran ‘22 was not given the ability to switch to a different lab by Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Jude Mitchell in order to celebrate the Lunar New Year. A bias incident report on Mitchell was filed subsequently.
Following the initial complaints, SA passed a Resolution to Expand Academic Policies and Recognize a Variety of Cultural Holidays. Sponsored by senior and former Senator Boris Sorokin (and cosponsored by senior Falisha Hola and former Minority Student Affairs Liaison junior Adrija Bhattacharjee), the resolution endorses a proposal from the office of the International Student Affairs in the College to expand the number of cultural holidays recognized by the University. The aforementioned proposal, linked in the resolution, is currently inaccessible.
“We also ask the Faculty Senate and the Provost of the [U]niversity to assure that the faculty always has a presumption of respect to any culturally motivated requests for excuses, extensions, and other academic accommodations,” the resolution says. “There should be rules and guidelines in place to assure that all the faculty members are being respectful of such celebrations and that they allow students a greater flexibility if they request it.”
In addition, ideas for a committee were formed in order to address issues with cultural and religious observances. According to minutes from an Oct. 24 meeting of the College Diversity Roundtable, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Rev. Dr. C. Denise Yarbrough and alumnus Noah Pizmony-Levy Drezner were planning a small committee to be chaired by former Chief Diversity Officer Mercedes Ramirez Fernandez. However, due to her departure from the University, this was not followed up on. According to Bhattacharjee, who is now SA President, the committee went defunct around the spring of 2022.
Potentially as a result of these setbacks, the Office of the Provost’s email came as an unexpected delight to some — and to others, a frustratingly-delayed response. Among those is Tran himself.
When asked about his thoughts on the email, Tran thought the response was “funny.” “You have a school with a huge population of Asian students and never really thought twice of this significant holiday for that demographic until students made noise,” he said. “It’s great progress, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t have been something ‘important’ just because you wronged a student.”