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University Committee

2 September 2014




Deans, Directors, Faculty and Instructional Academic Staff

Sarah Mangelsdorf, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Steven K. Smith, Secretary of the Faculty
Lori Berquam, 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. Major religious holidays that occur during the fall 2014 semester include the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah (25-26 September) and the Islamic holiday Eid al- Adha (scheduled for 5 October, but as Islamic holidays are based on the observable lunar cycle, the actual date may be the 6th). In addition, given our university’s multicultural community, there are bound to be conflicts between mandatory academic requirements and other religious observances. Please visit for a listing, though not exhaustive, of religious holidays. Please refer to the calendar below for additional information, and mark the noted holidays on your calendar now so that you do not schedule mandatory exercises on any of these dates.

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. (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:
Sarah Mangelsdorf, Office of the Provost, 608-262-1304,
Steven K. Smith, Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, 608-265-4562,
Lori Berquam, Division of Student Life, 608-263-5700,




Faculty contract year begins   25  August (M)
Advising available   25-29  August (M-F)
Last day to cancel enrollment without transcript record   1  September (M)
Labor Day holiday    1  September (M)
Instruction begins     2  September (T)
Last day to drop courses or withdraw without notation on transcript   10  September (W)
Last day to add courses or enroll without department/dean permission   12  September (F)
Last day for 100% tuition adjustment on dropped classes   12  September (F)
Rosh Hashanah*      25-26  September (R-F)**
Yom Kippur*    4  October (S)**
Eid al-Adha*   5 October (N)***
Last day to drop courses   31  October (F)
Last day to withdraw without academic penalty (undergrad, prof, spec)    21  November (F)
Thanksgiving recess    27-30  November (R-N)
Last day to withdraw without academic penalty (grad)      12  December (F)
Last class day   12  December (F)
Study day   13  December (S)
Summary period    14-20  December (N-S)
Commencement   21  December (N)****
Last day grades in    26  December (F)

* In accordance with regent and faculty policy, faculty are asked not to schedule mandatory exercises on days when religious observances may cause substantial numbers of students to be absent from the university.
** Observances of Jewish holidays begin at sunset on the day preceding that which is listed as the holiday.
*** Islamic holidays are based on the lunar cycle and dates may vary by one day from those listed.
**** The official date of degree conferral on the diploma will be 19 December 2014.


Academic Calendar
Interfaith Calendar of Religious Holidays
Faculty Document 488a - Religious Observances Policy
Admissions Deadlines: Undergraduate  Graduate  Transfer  International
University Housing: Important Dates and Deadlines

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Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1380
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