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Accommodations for Religious Observance

In accordance with policy PROV-008 Teaching Courses for Academic Credit, it is the University's long-standing policy and practice to reasonably accommodate students so that they do not experience an adverse academic consequence when sincerely held religious beliefs or observances conflict with academic requirements.

Students who wish to request academic accommodation for a religious observance should submit their request in writing directly to the instructor of the course. Students and instructors who have questions or concerns about academic accommodations for religious observance or religious beliefs may contact the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) at UVAEOCR@virginia.edu or (434) 924-3200.

Accommodations do not relieve students of the responsibility for completion of any part of the coursework missed as the result of a religious observance.

Questions about workplace accommodations for religious observances can also be directed to EOCR at UVAEOCR@virginia.edu or (434) 924-3200.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a reasonable academic accommodation under this policy?

A reasonable academic accommodation is any change in an academic course or program of study with respect to the way tasks or responsibilities are customarily done that enables a student to observe a sincerely held religious practice or belief.

A reasonable academic accommodation does not include substantial modifications to academic standards; modification or adjustment of requirements essential to any program of instruction, program or activity, or essential to any directly related licensing requirement; or modifications or adjustments that result in undue hardship.

What are examples of reasonable academic accommodations under this policy?

Example 1:

One of the assignments to be graded in a course is a group presentation during which each member of the group must present for 15 minutes on a specified date. The date scheduled for group presentations falls on Diwali, and one of the students contacts the instructor to request an accommodation as the student will be observing Diwali. A reasonable accommodation may include, but not be limited to, offering this student’s group an alternate date to present that does not fall on the day of religious observance.

Example 2:

A laboratory experiment has been scheduled in one of the sections of a large introductory course, which conflicts with a student’s observance of Eid al-Adha. The student contacts the instructor to request an accommodation. A reasonable accommodation may include, but not be limited to, contacting the instructors of other lab sections to determine if there is an alternate date or time at which the student could participate in the experiment. The reason for the request does not need to be disclosed to the instructors of other lab sections to facilitate the accommodation request.

Example 3:

Course participation is one of the graded components of a course. A student will be absent to observe Yom Kippur. A reasonable accommodation may include, but not be limited to, assigning the student a reading response to a journal article related to a topic covered in the course discussion on the date the student is absent for the religious observance. The student may not be penalized for lack of class participation on that date.

Example 4:

The course attendance policy specifies that a certain number of absences can be taken for any reason without impacting the course grade. A student incurs an absence beyond the number specified in the attendance policy for a religious observance. The instructor may not count the absence for religious observance as part of the overall number of absences for grading purposes.

How does a student request a reasonable academic accommodation under this policy?

The student who needs an academic accommodation for a religious observance should submit a written request to the course instructor. It is recommended that the request be made as soon as the student is aware of a potential conflict to allow sufficient time for the student and the instructor to engage in an interactive dialogue to identify an appropriate accommodation.

What must an instructor do once a request for reasonable academic accommodation under this policy is received?

The instructor should make every effort to grant a reasonable academic accommodation.  In general, when students have notified an instructor that they will be absent from class for a religious observance on days of examinations or class assignments, the instructor must offer the student an opportunity to make up the work without penalty. The makeup work should be appropriately related to course objectives and should be intrinsically no more difficult than the original exam or assignment. The instructor must handle requests for reasonable academic accommodation for religious observance in a confidential manner.  If upon a good faith evaluation of the course/assignment objectives the instructor does not believe a reasonable academic accommodation is possible, the instructor should contact EOCR before denying the request.

Suggested Syllabus Statement:

EOCR recommends that faculty members include information in course syllabi to alert students to their rights and responsibilities as relates to academic accommodations for religious observance. The following is a sample statement:

Students who wish to request academic accommodation for a religious observance should submit their request to me by email as far in advance as possible. If you have questions or concerns about your request, you can contact the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) at UVAEOCR@virginia.edu or 434-924-3200. Accommodations do not relieve you of the responsibility for completion of any part of the coursework you miss as the result of a religious observance.

Internal Resources:

External Resources: