Accommodations for Religious Observances

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 includes the following provisions:

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.

Students have a responsibility to alert members of the teaching staff in a timely fashion to upcoming religious observances and anticipated absences. Instructors will make every reasonable effort to avoid scheduling tests, examinations or other compulsory activities at these times. If compulsory activities are unavoidable, every reasonable opportunity should be given to these students to make up work that they miss, particularly in courses involving laboratory work. When the scheduling of tests or examinations cannot be avoided, students should be informed of the procedure to be followed to arrange to write at an alternate time.

It is most important that no student be seriously disadvantaged because of her or his religious observances. However, in the scheduling of academic and other activities, it is also important to ensure that the accommodation of one group does not seriously disadvantage other groups within the University community.

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.

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.

The following are 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).

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 & Student Policy Advisor at 416-978-4027 or meredith.strong@utoronto.ca.

For assistance in devising reasonable accommodations for religious observances and Holy Days, please contact the UTM Student Affairs & Services Department at 905-828-3872 or sas.utm@utoronto.ca, or the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office at 416-978-1259 or antiracism@utoronto.ca

Links