SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – At University of Washington, Muslim students are given the opportunity to take their exams after sunset during the month of Ramadan.
It all began when biology professor Bryan White met with one of his Muslim students last year. He was confused. She was a good student, but her grades sharply dropped on her final exam. The student told him she had trouble focusing during the test because she was fasting. It was the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day and only eat and drink at night.
White was upset. He was certain he could have done something to help.
When another one of his students mentioned Ramadan to him this year, White was determined to give them a helping hand. White decided to hold two sessions of final exams this year for his Introduction to Physiology class. One would be held in the morning. Later, one would be held at 10 PM after sunset, when his Muslim students would have a chance to eat. He sent a quick email and announced the new testing times to all of his students.
“To me, this was a very simple thing,” White said. “It’s not uncommon for me to be at work until midnight anyway.”
Two other professors have decided to do the same. One, Rania Hussein, is also Muslim.
The gesture means a lot to the school’s Muslim students, who otherwise would have to struggle to keep their grades up because of their religious beliefs. During Ramadan, many Muslims have to stay up at odd hours. Most don’t drink water or coffee when the sun is up, and for those accustomed to regular coffee, that makes everything more difficult.
“This might not seem like a lot to Dr. White, but it really means a lot to us,” One of Dr. White’s students, junior Zoha Awan said. “To see even something this small … it does make a big difference.”
Indira Ongarbaeva, another of Muslim student at University of Washington, said she felt “emotionally prepared” knowing she wouldn’t be hungry during the test. She broke her fast at 9:04 PM with dates and then hopped in the car to go to her final.
White has a habit of looking after his students. He believes it’s important to care for them and make sure that they’re not only learning, but that they’re doing well emotionally and mentally. He believes students who feel they belong do far better on tests than those who do not.
“I’ll have my students chant, ‘I am meant to be in this Intro to Physiology,’” White explained, “I know that’s corny, but … I want them to think, ‘this class really cares about each other.’”
Thank you, Professor White. The world needs more professors like you.