Student Petition Persuades NYC College to Move Up Graduation, Avoid Shabbat

The school agreed to change the time of the ceremony in order to accommodate its Jewish degree recipients, garnering praise from a local politician in the process.

Graduates during the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs commencement in New York, U.S., May 17, 2010.
Bloomberg

A New York college has made the time of its graduation ceremony earlier so that it does not conflict with the Jewish Sabbath.

Baruch College, part of the City University of New York system, announced Friday that it would move up its May 27 commencement exercises by an hour to accommodate its Jewish students, the local CBS affiliatereported.

The school had scheduled its graduation ceremony for 5 p.m. on a Friday, making it too late for some participating students to return home from the Barclays Center in time for Shabbat. Some 11 percent of the student body is Jewish, many religiously observant.

Nearly 1,400 students had signed an online petition requesting an earlier start for the commencement exercises.

“Baruch College is committed to our entire diverse student body,” Baruch’s president, Mitchel Wallerstein, said in a statement. “With 170 countries and many ethnicities and religions represented, we work hard to ensure that our students receive a culturally sensitive and quality education. We are pleased that, with these revised space accommodations, we are able to be more responsive to the Sabbath constraints for both our Jewish and Muslim students.”

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat and an Orthodox Jew, praised the school.

“In modifying the spring commencement time for the Jewish student body, the President sends a clear message that every student’s graduation is just as important as the next, and acts as a reminder to be culturally sensitive,” Hikind said in a statement.