Reminder – Accommodation for Religious Observances
|From:||Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students|
|Date:||August 14, 2015|
|Re:||Reminder – Accommodation for Religious Observances|
I am writing to remind you of the University’s commitment and policy concerning accommodation for religious observances, and to ask that you forward this information to instructors in your department.
A number of you may already be aware that Rosh Hashanah falls on the first day of classes for a number of faculties at the University (September 14th). As a result, instructors in your department may experience a higher volume of accommodation requests in September.
As first noted in PDAD&C #15 (2007-08), this office has published a regularly updated website as a ready reference on issues related to this topic. 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 other advice on specific accommodation issues.
Please note that the obligation not to discriminate on the basis of religion (“creed”) is a statutory duty arising from the Ontario Human Rights Code. It carries with it the obligation to accommodate religious observances where doing so does not seriously disadvantage other groups within the University. For example, accommodation normally requires that scheduled graded term work or tests conflicting with religious observances be adjusted by providing similar evaluation on alternate dates. If instructors have concerns that accommodations are causing serious disadvantage to another group within the University, they should contact the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students.
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.” Since students would normally be aware of upcoming religious observances as well as examination schedules in advance, a minimum of three weeks advance notice should be considered sufficient.
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 that 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 some sort of faith leader substantiation for 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 a UTORexchange calendar, the dates for 2015-16 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 2016-17 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 Meredith Strong, 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 (416) 946-3119 or email@example.com.
- For advice related to Human Rights and Religious Requirements, please contact the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office at (416) 978-1259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.