Policy on Student Religious Accommodations in Academic Courses or Programs

I. Policy Statement
The University of Puget Sound values the rich diversity of religious traditions, observances and beliefs represented in our campus community and supports the rights of students to practice their faiths. The university recognizes that in some instances, a student’s religious observances may conflict with the student’s academic schedule. In such cases, the university is committed to compliance with state, federal and local laws, including RCW 28B.137.010, regarding reasonable accommodations for those observances.  Consistent with the Campus Policy Prohibiting Harassment and Discrimination, this policy also supports the university’s commitment to providing a learning environment free from discrimination and harassment.

II. Coverage
This policy applies to all university students enrolled in academic courses or programs.

III. Definitions
A. Reasonable Accommodation: In this context, a reasonable accommodation means a faculty member’s coordination with the student on scheduling examinations or other activities necessary for completion of the course or program, including rescheduling examinations or activities or offering different times for examinations or activities.

B. Religious Observances: Holidays observed for reasons of faith or conscience, including as part of a sincerely held religious belief, or for organized activities conducted under the auspices of a religious denomination, church or religious organization.

C. Undue Hardship: Undue hardship refers not only to significant financial difficulty, but to accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the course or program. The university will assess whether a proposed accommodation creates an undue hardship on a case-by-case basis.

IV. Requesting and Responding to a Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Observances
A. Student Responsibilities

1. A student seeking an academic accommodation for a religious observance shall consult with each of their faculty members and submit separate request(s) for accommodation to those faculty members.

2. A student must submit a written request to the faculty member within two (2) weeks of the first day of the course or program, and the request must include the specific date(s) for which the student requires accommodation regarding examinations or other activities.

B. Faculty Responsibilities

1. A faculty member shall promptly evaluate each request and reasonably accommodate any requests so that the student’s grades are not adversely impacted by absences covered by this policy, provided that the accommodation does not cause an undue hardship to the student, other students, the faculty member, or the university.

2. Within five (5) calendar days of receiving a student’s written request, a faculty member shall respond in writing to the student acknowledging the request and inviting additional conversation regarding the requested accommodation, if needed. 

3. Absent exceptional circumstances, the faculty member’s approval or denial of the student’s requested accommodation should be provided in writing to the student no later than two (2) weeks after receipt of the student’s request.

V. Resources for Assistance

A. Students may consult with the University Chaplain regarding reasonable accommodation requests, as needed, or for other questions about this policy.

B. Faculty members may consult with the University Chaplain or the Associate Academic Dean for assistance as needed or for other questions about this policy.

VI. Grievance/Appeal Procedure

A. A student may appeal a faculty member’s response or non-response to a request for a reasonable accommodation under this policy by providing written notice to the Dean of the Faculty in the Office of the Provost.

B. Such appeal must be submitted either (1) within five (5) calendar days of the student’s receipt of the final written determination from the faculty member regarding the request; or (2) within five (5) calendar days after a faculty member fails to respond to the student’s request within the timeframe established under Section IV.C., above.

C. In reviewing the appeal, the Dean of the Faculty shall consult with the student and the faculty member, and may consult with others as appropriate (e.g., University Chaplain).  Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Dean of the Faculty should provide a decision in writing to both the student and the faculty member generally within two (2) weeks of the receipt of the student’s written appeal. 

D. The decision of the Dean of the Faculty is final.

VII. Notice
A. This policy is available on the university’s website at www.pugetsound.edu/student-religious-accommodation-policy.

B. Faculty members must include a link to this policy in course or program syllabi.

VIII. Effective Date
This policy is effective as of January 1, 2020, and supersedes the university’s “Religious Observances” statement in the Academic Handbook.

IX. Related Statutes, Regulations, and Policies

 

Policy Owner:    Office of the Provost
Date Adopted:   December 9, 2019