Accommodations for Religious Observances

PDAD&C #16, 2007-08

MEMORANDUM

To: Principals, Deans, Academic Directors and Chairs
From: Vivek Goel, Vice-President and Provost
Date: September 19, 2007
Re: Accommodations for Religious Observances

I am writing to remind you of the University's commitment and policy concerning the scheduling of classes and examinations and other accommodation for religious observances, and to ask you to communicate broadly what is expected of faculty and students in this respect.

The University's expectations on this matter are articulated in the Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances. As noted in the Policy, the University welcomes and includes students, staff and faculty from a wide range of backgrounds, cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs. The Policy provides that "It is the policy of the University of Toronto to arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays."

The following are typical examples of requests that students may make to be excused from classes or examinations: Holy Days; on Fridays at 1:00 p.m. for Muslim community prayers; or on the Jewish Sabbath (one-and a-half hours before sunset Friday to one-and-a-half hours after sunset Saturday).

A new web page on Accommodations for Religious Observances has been established in order to provide a ready reference on issues related to this topic:

http://www.students.utoronto.ca/docs/religiousaccommodation.htm

The page provides links to the University's Policy, some example dates of relevance for the current academic year, and other advice concerning specific accommodation issues. Please note that the dates for 2007-08 were originally distributed on September 20, 2006 in PDAD&C #17, 2006-07. The dates for 2008-09 will be posted soon. This web page will continue to be updated with relevant information as needed.

The dates listed on the web site 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. Finally, some observances are based on an interpretation of the lunar calendar, and thus may vary by one or two days depending upon the interpretation relevant to a student's faith tradition.

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 Jim Delaney, Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor in Student Affairs at 416-978-4027 or jim.delaney@utoronto.ca.

For assistance in devising reasonable accommodations for religious observances and Holy Days, please contact Nouman Ashraf, Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Officer at 416-978-1259 or nouman.ashraf@utoronto.ca .