Western Sydney University (WSU) prides itself as being one of the most culturally diverse universities in Australia with more than 100 cultural and ethnic backgrounds represented in their student community as well as staff members who come from different culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The University is committed to promote a positive and supportive environment for staff and students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. They have done this by creating the ‘Equity and Diversity Calendar’ which lists the cultural and religious days celebrated in Australia and around the world in order to celebrate and promote awareness of the diversity in WSU.
However, this representation is not found in their current teaching policy. WSU’s special consideration policy states that any issue a student experiences regarding family or personal reasons such as religious reasons, requires a statement provided by a third party such as a Minister of a religion. This must then be given to WSU detailing the date of the event, the dates required to attend and the impact on the individual’s exam or assessment. However, this policy is restricted towards people who are attending events who only want to participate in religious events at home with family, friends or by themselves. Further, this policy does not consider religious duties such as fasting in Ramadan where Muslims are required to fast for one month.
Therefore, WSU students might need to prioritise studies instead of participating in religious celebrations, which could result in poor class participation due to lack of study, not achieving high grades in assessments and exams, and or possibly failing assessments and exams.
This petition hopes to encourage WSU to change their extension and deferral policy in order to provide flexible options to students who need it. Through achieving this we hope to enhance WSU equity and diversity guide lines regarding its teaching policy and hopefully inspire other universities to do the same.
Examples of Religious celebrations affected by exam and assessment period include:
Ramadan, the fasting month of Muslims, which occurs in the 9th month of the lunar calendar. During this month, Muslims all over the world abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from local sunrise till local sunset. As it is based on the lunar calendar, Ramadan begins 11 days earlier each subsequent year and can thus occur in any of the four seasons over time.
Rosh Hashana is another example which is a Jewish celebration that takes place on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri. This year, the holiday started at sundown Sunday and concluded at sundown Tuesday. It is a day of atonement for Jews throughout the world. Therefore, believers do not work and forgo food and drink. They celebrate the holiday both at home and in the synagogue. The next holiday to follow is known as Yom Kippur is Sukkot, which celebrates the fall harvest begins on October 17th and lasts for eight days. The holiday has both historical and agricultural origins and represents the journey of the Israelites through the desert after the exodus from Egypt and also the final gathering of the produce for the year.
Hinduism has a number of religious celebrations including Krishna Janmashtami and Navaratri. Krishna Janmashtami which is generally in the month of August and celebrates the birth of Krishna. This celebration goes for 2-3 days and includes fasting as well as community and cultural activities. Navaratri is a celebration for 9 nights over the months of September and October. This celebration is for various Gods and Goddess’.