Religious issues prompt review of Saturday exams

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By Allan Woods

Ryerson is listening to students who want Saturday exams eliminated for religious reasons, but some people complain the potential solutions take the notion of equity a tad too far.

Ryerson’s registrar Keith Alnwick said it would be a scheduling nightmare to eliminate Saturday exams. So to make things fair for students of all creeds, he said, some exams may be scheduled on Sunday as well.

But even those who advocate eliminating Saturday exams think Sunday exams, which would disrupt the religious observances of even more students, does little to solve the original problem.

Alnwick said getting rid of the Saturday exam shift would force some students to write several tests in one day.

“The repercussions of eliminating Saturday exams would be not all that pretty,” said Alnwick, adding the idea of Sunday exams is only one potential solution. “We’re pretty confident we can enhance the situation.”

Still, those who don’t want Saturday exams say holding Sunday exams is an inadequate response.

“I don’t see how anybody could come out happy from having Sunday exams,” said Jack Gryn, president of Ryerson’s Jewish Students Association, which is fighting to get rid of Saturday exams. “The ideal situation would be adding another shift to ecams during the week.”

A pause day over the weekend is necessary for all students, for either spiritual or emotional reasons, said Claudia Brown, executive director of St. Philip Neri House, Ryerson’s Catholic chaplaincy,

“[The proposed plan] is avoiding the whole notion of having a pause day,” she said. “Having exams on both days would be even worse.”

Saturday exams are a problem for several other religious groups who consider it the holiest day of the week, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists.

Earlier this year, Gryn asked Joe Davenport, a student member of the university’s academic council, to bring up the Saturday-exam issue at its October meeting.

As a result of the meeting, a seven-member committee — chaired by Alnwick and made up of three students and three faculty members — has been set up to propose a solution to having exams on any religious holidays, including Saturday.

Gryn said he has asked RyeSAC president Cory Wright, who also sits on the academic council, how he can apply to be part of the committee.

“I’m at least hoping to have somebody who represents students who have problems with Saturday exams,” he said.

The committee should begin looking into the issue within the next two weeks and hoped to be finished in time for the April exam period, Alnwick said.

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