15 January 2014
Deans, Directors, Faculty and Instructional Academic Staff
Paul DeLuca, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs;
William Heiss, Interim Secretary of the Faculty;
Lori Berquam, Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students
When Classwork and Religious Observances Conflict
We would like to remind you of the faculty policy that mandatory academic requirements should not be scheduled on days when religious observances may cause substantial numbers of students to be absent from the university. Some religions mark observances over multiple days, which may begin at sunset on the day preceding the posted date(s) of the holiday. This is the case during the spring semester for the Jewish holiday Passover (April 15-22). Given our university’s multicultural community, there are bound to be conflicts between mandatory academic requirements and other religious observances. Please refer to the academic calendar and visit interfaithcalendar.org for a listing, though not exhaustive, of religious holidays. To minimize conflicts for students, please make every attempt to not schedule mandatory exercises on primary days of religious observance in a tradition.
A student’s claim of a religious conflict, which may include travel time, should be accepted at face value. A great variety of valid claims exist for religious groups, and there is no practical, dignified, and legal means to assess the validity of individual claims. State law mandates that any student with a conflict between an academic requirement and any religious observance must be given an alternative for meeting the academic requirement. The law also stipulates that students be given a mechanism by which they can conveniently and confidentially notify an instructor of the conflict.
Please adhere to the following three guidelines that have been developed to provide clarity for both students and instructors: (1) Announce early in the semester that your students must notify you within the first two weeks of class of the specific days or dates on which they request relief. Including this information on your course syllabus is another appropriate method to make sure your students are informed of the policy; (2) Make‑ups may be scheduled before or after the regularly scheduled requirements; and (3) It is understood that instructors may set reasonable limits on the total number of days claimed by any one student. Occasionally, students may not fully understand the necessity for prior notice, and under these circumstances we urge you to be as flexible as possible. Our policy seeks to be sensitive to the needs of individual students.
Please advise your teaching assistants of this policy.
Finally, on a different but somewhat parallel topic, we urge fairness, compassion, and sensitivity when you or your TAs are approached by a student requesting class time off due to a family emergency. Demonstration of your understanding in such a circumstance may be important to the student in getting through the crisis. Please note that University Health Services offers counseling for students on a 24/7 basis.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Paul DeLuca, Office of the Provost - (608) 262-1304
William Heiss, Office of the Secretary of the Faculty - (608) 265-4562
Lori Berquam, Division of Student Life - (608) 263-5700
OTHER CALENDAR-RELATED LINKS
Interfaith Calendar of Religious Holidays
Faculty Document 488a - Religious Observances Policy
Enrollment/Tuition Deadlines: Fall 2013 Spring 2013 Summer Sessions
Admissions Deadlines: Undergraduate Graduate Transfer International
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