Editorial: Big Show-Yom Kippur reflects poorly on effectiveness of community dialogues

Posted by the Editorial Board

Tonight, the SEC's big concert of the year will take place in the Big Gym of the Williamson Sports Center, featuring the "Indie techno fusion band," TV on the Radio. Sundown tonight also marks the beginning of the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, a day of atonement wherein those practicing spend the day fasting and reflecting.

By the time the conflict was recognized, rescheduling the concert was impossible. The Student Government Association has formed an ad hoc committee to review event scheduling to prevent such a conflict in the future. However, this does not dispel questions about how this could have occurred.

How did it happen? The process of reserving the Sports Center for use began with Megan Buchanan, one of the directors of the facility. She, however, only consults a calendar that shows when the college in session and classes take place in relation to what days the sports center is available for such an event. Although classes are normally cancelled for observance of Yom Kippur, it was not listed this year because it falls on a weekend.

Organizing and setting up for a concert requires more time than just the day of the concert; the process requires several consecutive days. For example, the Oct. 24 was also considered a viable option, but when the request was sent to Interim Director of Leadership Activities Robin Adams he rejected it on the grounds that there were not enough days for preparation.

"Essentially, the precedent with events has been to do our best to avoid holiday weekends," said Robin Adams, in an email to The Skidmore News, "but there was no policy prohibiting events. Because the Sports Center is, just that, a sports center for our athletic teams and there are numerous other college events that take place (open houses, etc.) there are precious few opportunities to put on student run events (concerts, dances etc)."

Three possible dates, as determined by Buchanan, then went through Robin Adams to the SEC, who made the final decision.

Orchestrating these huge concerts is enormously complex; that there will be conflicts is generally understood. Nonetheless, in light of the on going dialogue regarding tolerance and minority issues, it would have been prudent of the college to pay attention to the practices of its Jewish population, particularly on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

The scheduling of the event on such a day appeared, to a good portion of the campus, insensitive, regardless of how or why the dates were. Despite the complexities of the scheduling process, it is hardly understandable that Yom Kippur could have been overlooked. Ultimately, someone should have noticed.

However, the issue does not stop as a mere scheduling blunder. It poses a deeper question to our community: does the college practice what it preaches as far as respect for and awareness of diversity? If Yom Kippur were, historically, a holiday not recognized by the college, then this conflict would have been somewhat understandable. But, there is in fact a policy in place that classes would not be held on Yom Kippur were it to fall on a weekday. The college clearly made note of when Yom Kippur would occur when this year's academic calendar was made, yet that attention did not carry over into scheduling further events.

This is particularly an embarrassing gaffe when put into the current context of campus-wide efforts on diversity and inclusion. The college has spent a semester and counting making acceptance and tolerance an ongoing topic of discussion on campus, including a lecture just last week by Dr. Frances Kendall. That the administration has managed, in the midst of these efforts, to marginalize almost a fifth of the college's population, unintentionally or not, we must call the effectiveness of this overarching narrative into question.

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