Students deserve more time off, respective holiday breaks

Written By August Stephens, Opinions Editor

At this point in the semester, I believe most of us are burnt out. The cyclical process of turning in assignments, listening to lectures, and completing group work becomes harder day by day. I have personally heard from a few professors that teaching in the midst of multiple national crises has been exhausting. When just living is tiring, fulfilling prior commitments does not make life any easier. 


When students celebrate holidays other than Christmas or Easter, they often have to work around those holidays rather than being able to fully celebrate their own respective religious holidays. Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan or students of other faiths should not have to shift their entire schedule due to traditional Christian ideals. It is stressful enough when you have to worry about travel or family plans during the holiday season, which only adds to having to adapt to the abnormally busy, focused time of the year. 


Point Park University does little to accommodate our students of other faiths. As an institution they could not even guarantee decorative candles in the Lawrence Hall Lobby to be placed into the menorah while Hanukkah was occurring and being celebrated by students. Mealtimes and food offerings could also be adjusted to be more inclusive of students fasting for Ramadan. 


There are multiple hard-working people who dedicate their time to opening space for religious trauma to be heard and healed. Downtown, it may seem like there is a lack of a religious or spiritual presence. There are faith centers in and surrounding the Pittsburgh area, including churches, mosques, and synagogues. Buddhist temples also thrive in the area to provide individuals a Buddhist safe haven. 


Colleges often do not acknowledge religious holidays other than through email or social media posts. Simply sharing an image is not enough to make students feel represented as a whole. It is important to have a holistic academic career when reaching higher education, so people know how to appropriately address and discuss religion, at least at a surface level. A person being raised in a sheltered, homogenous environment should no longer be an excuse for ignorance. 


Students should not need to face the fear or anxiety which comes along with people having a lack of cultural awareness. People who practice a faith which is not what you are used to do not owe you an explanation. Oftentimes religion and spirituality can provide students, and people as a whole, a sense of belonging, comfort, and safety. Select churches also adapted to Zoom services in order to provide this resource to community members while they are at home. 


All holidays should be considered excused holidays. Students should not be expected to work on holidays in which an entire break is made for that celebration. Certain holidays may overlap where the days could be occurring at the same time. Our language should reflect this as well, where we should wish people “Happy Holidays!” instead of a singular specific religious holiday. 


Pittsburgh universities should affirm their interest in their students’ spiritual lives. Taking action towards becoming a more equitable university could look like providing shuttles to spiritual centers, adjusting meal times, providing proper decorations in more than one building, and symbolic representation. A spiritual life fair similar to the student organization fair held at the beginning of the year could take place so students can become more familiar with representative faces on campus. There are steps which need to be taken in order to become a more spiritually diverse campus.