In response to a growing controversy about a graduation date scheduling conflict that would have prevented Orthodox Jewish students from attending, it appears that New York City’s iconic Baruch College has rectified the matter and put it to rest.
Weeks ago, Baruch College announced that their annual spring commencement ceremony would take place on Friday evening, May 27th at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Because the time was set for 5:00 pm, this placed Orthodox Jewish students in a dilemma as they are required to cease all work prior to the start of the weekly Sabbath that falls out right before sundown.
Many Orthodox Jewish students and parents registered complaints about the unfortunate timing of the graduation as well as key legislators such as New York City Councilman David Greenfield and New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Also chiming in with their voice of protest to the selected graduation date was the Anti-Defamation League.
Almost 11% of the Baruch College student body are comprised of Orthodox Jews.
In a statement released late last week, Baruch College announced that it has “worked with the Barclay’s Center to adjust its Commencement 2016 start time to 4:00 pm, rather than the originally planned 5:00 pm time. This adjustment allows for a planned end at 5:45 pm.”
“We appreciate the flexibility of the Barclay’s Center that allows us to respond to feedback from our graduating students and their families about the inconveniences for those observing Sabbath,” said Dr. Mitchel B. Wallerstein, President of Baruch College.
“Baruch College is committed to our entire diverse student body. 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.”
Baruch College chose Barclay’s Center because it is the only indoor facility in the City of New York that could offer space availability and that is capable of accommodating the entire Baruch community of more than 15,000 people for Commencement. Given the multiple activities that go on in the Barclay’s Center, May 27th was the only date available in reasonable proximity to the official end of the CUNY spring semester. Baruch is contractually committed to the Barclay’s Center for this date.
Before making this decision, Baruch’s Dean of Students conferred with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities on our campus, which both have their Sabbath beginning on Fridays. Based on the additional feedback that Baruch has received the last few days, the College has had further discussions with the Barclay’s Center and has enlisted their help in adjusting the start and end times of the event so that we can keep a single graduation ceremony in a space large enough to accommodate all our students and their families.