Faculty, Staff and Students Must Be Aware of Religious Observances

Festive Diwali candles

The holiday season is finally here. But for many, it began earlier.

Last month, NC State faculty, staff and students, alongside more than a billion people across the globe, celebrated Diwali. The holiday of Diwali is a five-day festival of lights celebrated primarily by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Each religion marks different historical events and stories associated with the holiday, but all of them have a common theme — the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. This year, Diwali began on Oct. 27, 2019.

Although so many celebrate Diwali, including members of the Wolfpack, quite a few people are still unfamiliar and unaware of it. Anusha Chandra, a first-year student studying animal science at NC State, tells us that she was unable to go home to Charlotte to celebrate with her family because she had a chemistry exam scheduled during this time. Diwali is a five-day festival, but the studying leading up to the exam, and then taking the exam, filled her time. “This was surprising to me and to other South Asian people just because there is such a large South Asian population here and even an organization on campus,” says Chandra. The organization she referred to is Ektaa

Ektaa, meaning unity in Hindi/Urdu, is the South Asian student association on campus. Their mission is to spread the culture and heritage of South Asia across the campus and local community. “Our main purpose for the organization is to provide people a community, a home away from home,” says Nishant Patel, graphic design chair for the organization. At the moment, the organization is “very much an interest organization,” says vice president Akhil Talasila, but welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds and frequently has workshops and tables at events to inform and educate the campus about South Asian culture. Perhaps if more people were aware of religious observances from different faiths, then scheduling problems like the aforementioned one wouldn’t occur.

There are, however, some resources available to the campus to help alleviate these problems. The university offers a minimum of two excused absences per academic year for religious observances as verified by the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA). To access this benefit, students must follow the Class Absence Verification process. Also, the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity provides a list of major religious and cultural holidays that we urge faculty, staff, and students to consult and be mindful of when scheduling events.

The university says that “diversity is critical to NC State’s mission,” so let’s be sure to respect our differences, including religious ones.

Jenna Nabors is a third-year student majoring in communication and international studies and is a Park Scholar. Share your thoughts about this article on Twitter at @NCStateOIED.