Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) was informed Friday afternoon that Baruch College President Mitchel Wallerstein has decided to alter the spring graduation ceremony time to 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. on Friday, May 27th 2016 in an effort to accommodate Sabbath observers. The decision came after thoughtful consideration and a large outcry of nearly 1,400 students in the form of a petition, created by January graduate Renée Shemesh, and a personal letter to the president from Assemblyman Hikind urging Dr. Wallerstein to “do the right thing and allow all students to attend graduation.”
“I’m thrilled that Baruch College responded to the outcry of its Jewish student body and took swift measures in resolving the situation,” said an elated Hikind. “This goes much further than graduation; it’s about standing up for your rights and not backing down. Thanks to Renée’s bravery and her petition, all Sabbath-observing students can enjoy their graduation at Baruch without being deprived of the joy and celebration.”
Hikind extended his praises to President Wallerstein, who acted quickly in rectifying the dilemma. “In modifying the spring commencement time for the Jewish student body, the President sends a clear message that every student’s graduation is just as important as the next, and acts as a reminder to be culturally sensitive,” he said. “I’m proud that Baruch College exemplifies that message.”
Renée Shemesh, who recently graduated at Baruch College in January but will walk in the spring, submitted her petition on social media Wednesday and by Friday morning had 1,375 signatures in favor of changing the time or date of the ceremony— originally slated for 5 p.m. on Friday, May 27th 2016.
“I’m so happy of the resolution because it’s the respectful thing to do. It was handled in the right manner on both sides,” Shemesh told Hikind’s office. “The petition was made to show Baruch how much students, their families, and friends care about this issue. Once I posted the petition online and spoke about it openly, many students reached out to me about their concern and how they were unaware of what steps to take. They were glad that I pushed for this, and I am extremely honored to be a help to the students graduating with me this spring. We worked really hard for this moment. Graduation is an experience we will never get back. Now is our time to shine with all of our friends and family and, thankfully, we are able to celebrate in the right way.”
Added Hikind: “This was about doing the right thing, and allowing every student equal opportunity to attend and enjoy their graduation. Without having to rush home before Shabbos, everyone will be able to better enjoy the celebration of a lifetime achievement.”