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.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Courtesy photo
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Car review

There’s a reason Honda’s CR-V has been America’s top-selling crossover vehicle over… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health

The stream-a-thon supports NAMI Eastside and nonprofit Hold Your Crown

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

UW students create Spira app to gather COVID-19 data

The app was created to screen for respiratory diseases but the teen creators shifted their focus once the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Showing their appreciation for EvergreenHealth workers

First responders from Kirkland, Bothell and Woodinville stopped by the Kirkland medical center to show their support for their colleagues.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Bothell band dedicates new single to noted sound engineer

Colossal Boss’ “Fool” was recorded by Tom Pfaeffle shortly before he was fatally shot in 2009.

Savannah Lynn and Will Chadek in the Second Story Repertory of Redmond’s production of “The Fantasticks.” “The Fantasticks” had been performed three times by the organization until coronavirus concerns resulted in the cancellation of the remaining dates. Photo by Michael Brunk
How is the coronavirus affecting the arts?

Representatives from Eastside arts institutions discuss their experiences.