UW Bothell prof offers after-sunset exams during Ramadan

Student: “Fasting is rewarding at the end of the day, but really physically and mentally draining.”

Laura Umetsu

Laura Umetsu

BOTHELL — Laura Umetsu routinely brings oranges to her classroom at the University of Washington Bothell.

One day a student didn’t take one, but she still offered. He said he was fasting for Ramadan.

Ramadan lasts for about a month and is on different dates each year. It is one of the holiest times for Muslims. Those who observe it cannot eat or drink while the sun is up.

This year, the school’s final exams were scheduled during the celebration, which was from May 15 until June 14. Umetsu, who teaches business classes, wondered what she could do for her Islamic students.

She decided to schedule two tests: One at the original time and another after sunset.

“I talked to other students who were also fasting, and I thought it would be a nice thing to do,” she said.

She would accommodate any student who had a religious obligation. As a Christian, she believes others should be treated with kindness.

She also has noticed hostility toward Muslim students in the past, she said. She wanted to show support.

In November 2016, there were reports that a group of men were harassing Muslim women on campus, demanding they remove their hijabs. In another case earlier this year, someone left a bag of human waste in a room used for Muslim prayer.

Students felt unsafe, said Maria Raza, a junior.

Raza is a Muslim who was in Umetsu’s class at the time. She also was part of the student government.

She stayed awake at night thinking of the vandalism. She couldn’t concentrate during class. She decided to speak with Umetsu.

“I didn’t know she would be so supportive and understanding,” Raza said. “She knew the right things to say.”

Umetsu has been a professor at the university for about two years. Some of her colleagues have offered later finals during Ramadan before. It was a first for her.

She plans to keep offering later finals when they’re scheduled during Ramadan. All five students who took the second exam passed, Umetsu said.

Raza knows how much it means.

“This act is super important to the Muslim community, and it shows a lot of support to the students,” she said. “A lot of students don’t have to restrict themselves from eating before their tests. … During the month of Ramadan, people don’t have that option.”

Ramadan comes about 10 days earlier each year, and can be difficult to plan for in advance. People who observe the holiday might wake up as early as 2:30 a.m. to get everything done before sunrise, Raza said. They need to pray, eat and drink for the day, and brush their teeth, to make sure they don’t accidentally swallow any toothpaste. It can be hard to fall back asleep for a couple of hours before work or school, she said.

“Fasting is rewarding at the end of the day, but really physically and mentally draining,” Raza said. “It’s so nice to have people who actually understand.”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Harry Lee Jones Jr.
Man gets 31½ years for shooting Everett motel guest 12 times

Harry Lee Jones Jr., 27, beat and then shot a Farwest Motel guest in 2018 while two accomplices looted his room.

Pallet communities are groups of tiny homes for unhoused people. Here, a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in January 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Tiny home community is proposed at a Marysville church

The Pallet shelter community would provide transitional housing to eight people. Neighbors have questions.

With credit scores out, will insurers cut or hike your rate?

Lack of affordable housing squeezed buyers and drove up home prices across Snohomish County.

Photo courtesy Laura Thompson 

Madison Thompson and her dog Stella.
Whidbey teen, golden retriever make top 8 in NY kennel show

Madison Thompson was one of the youngest competitors in her division of 80 kids.

Chris Stack and Samantha Soule film a scene of their movie, "Midday Black, Midnight Blue," on the Coupeville wharf June 14. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)
Indie film crew: Whidbey residents are ‘generous and welcoming’

The movie makers are shooting scenes for a full-length feature at various sites around the island.

Everett's Patrick Hall was among people who put up signs in March to save the Longfellow School building.  He is now part of an advisory task force looking at options for the building, which the Everett School District had planned to tear down.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
National register listing could be next for old Longfellow

But the designation wouldn’t stop the Everett School District from tearing down the former school.

Abigail Cruz was awarded the American Association of University Women Edmonds Sno-King branch's $2,000 scholarship for Edmonds College. (AAUW Edmonds Sno-King)
Edmonds College student wins $2,000 AAUW scholarship

AAUW scholarship for Edmonds College student The Edmonds SnoKing Branch of the… Continue reading

Junelle Lewis becomes emotional while performing a dance with her children during the Justice to Jubilee Juneteenth Celebration at Skykomish River Park on Saturday, June 19, 2021 in Monroe, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Justice to Jubilee: ‘No one is free till everyone is free’

People gathered Saturday in a Monroe park to celebrate Juneteenth, a new federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery.

Galina Volchkova, the Volunteers of America Housing Director, discusses the volume of applications for rental assistance her office received Friday. (Katie Hayes / The Herald) 20210618
7,000 tenants, waiting for help, fear eviction after June 30

Rental assistance money won’t reach many landlords before the coronavirus eviction moratorium expires.

Most Read