Friday, April 26, 2013

Accommodation for Religious Observances

PDADC#54, 2012-13

To:   PDAD&C
CC:   Professional/Managerial Staff
From:       Jill Matus, Vice-Provost, Students
Date:       April 25, 2013
Re:   Reminder - Accommodation for Religious Observances

I am writing to remind you of the University's commitment and policy concerning accommodation for religious observances. As first noted in PDAD&C #16 (2007-08), this office has published a regularly updated web page as a ready reference on issues related to this topic:  The page provides guidelines, some example dates of relevance for the current and 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.

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 requirements where doing so does not cause undue hardship to the University. For example, accommodation normally requires that scheduled graded term work or tests conflicting with religious requirements be adjusted by providing similar evaluation on alternate dates.

Students who will miss an examination due to a religious observance should not normally 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 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. 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 should not be requested. The reasons for not requesting such letters are as follows: 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 2013-14 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 2014-15 dates will be populated in your calendar shortly. For other Microsoft Exchange users, please contact your network administrator if you wish to arrange to have these dates added to your calendar.

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 David Newman, Acting Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students at 416-978-4027 or

For assistance in devising reasonable accommodations for religious observances and Holy Days, please contact the Multifaith Centre at 416-946-3144 or or the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office at 416-978-1259 or

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