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

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.”

More in Life

Northshore Wall of Honor to recognize new inductees

Northshore Wall of Honor inductees to be recognized Aug. 16.

Parker Lang. Photo courtesy of Vicki Moore
Bothell’s Parker Lang saved nearly 30 lives after losing his own

Vicki Moore reflects on the positive impacts her son made through his organ and tissue donations.

‘Hometown Hero’ fights cancer with community support

Bothell firefighter, volunteer and “rad dad” Kirk Robinson is battling metastatic melanoma.

Kenmore hosts Play Day

Play Day set for Aug. 11.

HUD awards Snohomish County $10 million for youth homeless

They are among 11 organizations nationwide that will try to “get young people off the streets.”

Cascadia College names new vice president

Kerry Levett will be the new vice president of student learning and success.

Bothell neighbors plant seeds for vegetables and community

Residents of 13th Place started a community garden in a neighborhood project.

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.”

Kenmore wins statewide excellence award

The city was recognized for its economic development strategy.

State Supreme Court ruling highlights petition requirements

The deadline for initiative petitions to be submitted is 5 p.m. on July 6.

Evergreen Academy students in Bothell host farmers market

Hundreds attended the annual farmers market, where students sold products from the school’s garden.

My Favorite Martins

Steve Martin and Martin Short discuss bringing their two-man comedy extravaganza back to Seattle.