Finals week can be tough for university students. All-nighters, energy drinks and stress eating are a staple for students to help them get through. However, for Muslim students finals week can be tougher when one has to fast till sunset, and may have to sit for exams without having eaten anything.
Bryan White, a professor at the University of Washington at Bothell, decided to make finals week easier for his Muslim students by holding two finals for his Introduction to Physiology class. One was held at the scheduled university time while one was held after sundown, giving his Muslim students a chance to eat and drink before appearing for the exam.
All students, regardless of religion, were permitted to choose which time they wanted to take the exam. According to White, half of the students who appeared for the alternative exam were Muslim – the other half were not.
“My goal is to support the education of all of my students,” White explained in an interview with USA TODAY College. “I can’t stress enough that, to me, I did a very simple action.”
His ‘simple action’ was praised by his Muslim and non-Muslim students.
Shugla Kakar, a student in White’s class and current president of the Muslim Student Association at UW-Bothell said the professor’s consideration shows that he is committed to putting “student needs first.” She said she “was in shock,” when she found out White was providing the alternative exam sitting. “Everyone was in shock,” she said.
White’s decision came when two years ago he noticed a student did poorly on the exam in comparison to her performance during the semester. When he asked her about it, she told him she found it hard to focus since she was fasting for Ramazan. This year, a student told White about Ramazan during office hours which prompted him to provide alternative time for the exams.
“I thank my students for being comfortable enough for sharing this with me,” White said.
Soundarya Somasundaram, another student in White’s class, is not Muslim but applauded his decision. “I personally feel that I perform so much better when I eat before an exam,” she said and believed allowing fellow students who are fasting to eat before an exam was fair.
She further stated White “already had a really good reputation on campus”, prior to this decision. He has found ways to ease student anxiety before tests by playing music or baking cookies. His decision to schedule a second final exam date was thus another example of how he attends to the needs of his students.
White says his actions inspired two other instructors at the university to offer an alternative exam time. He hopes more colleagues follow suit but acknowledges everyone’s needs cannot be met. “There will be compromises. You can’t accommodate everyone.”
This story originally appeared in USA TODAY College
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