Imagine having to attend classes on Christmas, being stuck on campus on New Year’s Eve or doing homework on Thanksgiving, knowing that millions of people like you are with their families, eating turkey and enjoying pumpkin pie at that very moment.
This is a sentiment expressed by many Asian students who celebrate Chinese New Year, a holiday that is not recognized by Binghamton University.
On Feb. 16, students from the Asian Student Union (ASU), Asian Outlook, Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity and Kappa Phi Lambda sorority asked for support from the Student Association in an effort to make Chinese New Year an official BU holiday.
“Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays of our culture,” Man Fung Wong, president of ASU, said. “Asians compose almost 25 percent of the school. We think we deserve one holiday.”
Although the administration rejected a similar request five years ago, the Asian community is confident that this time they will be more successful.
“The Student Association has a bigger influence on the administration than we do,” Wong said. “We can’t go to the administration and ask for something they think is trivial. But if we get the Student Association to recognize our issue, it wouldn’t be an Asian issue anymore; it would be a student issue.”
Chinese, or lunar, New Year is usually celebrated in January or February. It falls on different dates each year according to the Chinese calendar.
Melissa Chan, editor of Asian Outlook, said that the most important part of Chinese New Year is going home to your family and having a reunion dinner, something BU students cannot do when the holiday falls on a weekday.
“We are looking for a two-day recess from classes so students can go home to celebrate,” Chan said. “I think it’s fair, some students even wanted three days.”
A resolution on this issue was distributed to the SA members on Monday and it will be put to a vote on Feb. 27.
“A similar bill was introduced in a State Assembly to close schools with large Asian populations during Chinese New Year,” Chan said. “It’s still being discussed and it wouldn’t apply to Binghamton, but if it’s important for the State Assembly, it’s important for Binghamton to consider it.”
Chan added that many Asian students have been struggling with this problem for years.
“Since elementary school, they had to choose between school and being with their families,” she said.
Although the ultimate goal of the Asian community is to get BU to declare a recess during Chinese New Year, Wong noted that it would probably have to be a state-mandated holiday and he would settle for some kind of formal recognition from the administration.
“Students want to go home to celebrate this holiday,” he said. “It would be nice if it wasn’t held against them academically.”