Accommodation for Religious Observances (PDAD&C #8)
From: Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students
Date: July 29, 2021
Re: Accommodation for Religious Observances (PDAD&C #8)
I am writing to remind you of the University’s commitment and policy concerning accommodation for religious observances and ask that you forward this information to instructors in your department.
As you may already be aware, this year Rosh Hashanah will fall on the first day of classes and/or during the traditional new student orientation period for a number of Faculties at the University (September 6th – 8th). As a result, Instructors in your department may experience a higher volume of accommodation requests in September. There may also be a need to schedule additional orientation sessions for students unable to participate during this period. In addition to Rosh Hashanah, there are several other religious celebrations in the first few weeks of the semester which may result in a high volume of accommodations requests. I would encourage you to share this information with faculty who will be teaching in the Fall term as well as staff and student leaders who may be planning orientation programs for incoming students.
The Office of the Vice-Provost, Students publishes a regularly updated web page as a ready reference on issues related to this topic: http://uoft.me/religiousaccommodation.
This page provides guidelines, some example dates of relevance for the upcoming academic year, links to the University’s Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances and provides other advice on specific accommodation issues.
Students who will miss an examination due to a religious observance should not be charged an examination deferral fee. However, all other normal examination deferral procedures should apply. With respect to minimum advance notice, the Policy provides that “Students have a responsibility to alert members of the teaching staff in a timely fashion to upcoming religious observances and anticipated absences.” In most cases, students will be aware of upcoming religious observances as well as examination schedules in advance; a minimum of three weeks advance notice should be considered sufficient. In the event that the date for a faith-based observance cannot be provided three weeks prior, students are encouraged to engage in ongoing dialogue with instructors as early as possible so that the necessary arrangements can be made.
The dates listed on the website are provided to assist instructors and those planning academic activities to anticipate when some students might choose to seek accommodations for religious observances. It is important to note that there are many holy days associated with various faiths and the absence of such dates on this list should not be interpreted to mean that there should be no accommodation for students who observe those holy days. Also, some holy days are already captured by statutory holidays. Finally, some observances are based on an interpretation of the lunar calendar, or a faith practice, and thus may vary by one or two days depending upon the interpretation relevant to a student’s faith tradition.
Letters/documentation from faith leaders to support requests for accommodation are not to be requested. The practice of requiring a faith leader to substantiate requests for accommodation implies a potential assessment of the sincerity of the religious practice. Not all faith traditions necessitate involvement in an organized faith community.
For those using the U of T Outlook calendar, the dates for 2021-2022 outlined in the table on the ‘Accommodations for Religious Observances’ web page have been automatically populated in your calendar in the same way as U of T holiday dates (statutory holidays, Presidential holidays, December/January closure). The dates for 2022-2023 will be populated in your calendar in the coming weeks.
For assistance in interpreting the Policy and for support in the development of divisional or departmental procedures which are consistent with the Policy, please contact Melinda Scott, Director, Office of the Vice-Provost Students and Student Policy Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For assistance in devising reasonable accommodations for religious observances and Holy Days, please contact the Multifaith Centre at email@example.com.
For advice related to Human Rights and Religious Requirements, please contact the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office (firstname.lastname@example.org), the UTSC Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office (email@example.com), or the UTM Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office (firstname.lastname@example.org).