When Classwork and Religious Observances Conflict

Letter from the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Secretary of the Faculty, and Vice Provost for Student Life and dean of Students, regarding faculty policies and guidelines for religious observances conflicting with academic requirements.

5 January 2017


TO:            Deans, Directors, Faculty, and Instructional Academic Staff


CC:            Facilities and Administrative Unit Directors, Teaching Assistants


FROM:       Sarah Mangelsdorf, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Steven K. Smith, Secretary of the Faculty

Lori Berquam, Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students


RE:            When Classwork and Religious Observances Conflict


We would like to remind you of the faculty policy that mandatory academic requirements should not be scheduled on days when religious observances may cause substantial numbers of students to be absent from the university. Please visit interfaithcalendar.org for a listing, though not exhaustive, of religious holidays. Please refer to the calendar below for additional information and mark the noted holidays on your calendar now so that you do not schedule mandatory exercises on any of these dates.


A student’s claim of a religious conflict, which may include travel time, should be accepted at face value. A great variety of valid claims exist for religious groups, and there is no practical, dignified, and legal means to assess the validity of individual claims. State law mandates that any student with a conflict between an academic requirement and any religious observance must be given an alternative for meeting the academic requirement. The law also stipulates that students be given a mechanism by which they can conveniently and confidentially notify an instructor of the conflict.


Please adhere to the following three guidelines that have been developed to provide clarity for both students and instructors: (1) Announce early in the semester that your students must notify you within the first two weeks of class of the specific days or dates on which they request relief. Including this information on your course syllabus is another appropriate method to make sure your students are informed of the policy. (2) Make‑ups may be scheduled before or after the regularly scheduled requirements. (3) It is understood that instructors may set reasonable limits on the total number of days claimed by any one student. Occasionally, students may not fully understand the necessity for prior notice, and under these circumstances we urge you to be as flexible as possible. Our policy seeks to be sensitive to the needs of individual students.


Please advise your teaching assistants of this policy.


Finally, on a different but somewhat parallel topic, we urge fairness, compassion, and sensitivity when you or your TAs are approached by a student requesting class time off due to a family emergency. Demonstration of your understanding in such a circumstance may be important to the student in getting through the crisis. Please note that University Health Services (uhs.wisc.edu) offers counseling for students on a 24/7 basis. For other resources related to workplace challenges, please visit the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty webpage (secfac.wisc.edu/workplace-conflict.htm).

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us:

Steven K. Smith, Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, 608-265-4562, sof@secfac.wisc.edu

Steven M. Cramer, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, 608-262-5246, steven.cramer@wisc.edu

Lori Berquam, Division of Student Life, 608-263-5700, dean@studentlife.wisc.edu



Last day to cancel enrollment without transcript record                                  16  January (M)

Martin Luther King Jr Day                                                                              16  January (M)

Instruction begins                                                                                           17  January (T)

Last day to drop courses or withdraw without notation on transcript              25  January (W)

Last day to add courses or enroll without department/dean permission          27  January (F)

Last day for 100% tuition adjustment on dropped classes                              27  January (F)

Last day for 50% tuition adjustment on dropped classes                                10  February (F)

Last day to apply for pass/fail or convert from credit to audit (undergrad)     10  February (F)

Last day to drop courses                                                                                 17  March (F)

Last day to apply for pass/fail or convert from credit to audit (grad)              17  March (F)

Spring recess                                                                                             18-26  March (S-N)
Classes resume                                                                                               27  March (M)

Apply to graduate deadline                                                                             31  March (F)

Last day to withdraw without academic penalty (undergrad, prof., special)      7  April (F)

Passover*                                                                                                  11-18  April (T-T)**

Good Friday*                                                                                                 14  April (F)
Last day to withdraw without academic penalty (grad)                                     4  May (R)

Last class day                                                                                                   4  May (R)

Study day                                                                                                         5  May (F)

Exam (summary) period                                                                              6-12  May (S-F)

Commencement ceremony: doctoral and MFA candidates                             12  May (F)***

Commencement ceremony: undergraduate and master’s degree candidates   13  May (S)***

Start of Ramadan                                                                                            26  May (F)

Faculty contract year ends                                                                              28  May (N)


* In accordance with regent and faculty policy, faculty are asked not to schedule mandatory exercises on days when religious observances may cause substantial numbers of students to be absent from the university.

** Observances of Jewish holidays begin at sunset on the day preceding that which is listed as the holiday.

*** The official date of degree conferral on the diploma will be 13 May 2017.



133 Bascom Hall





Keywords:religious observance, TA, teaching assistant, guidelines   Doc ID:69819
Owner:Matthew Z.Group:VCRGE and Graduate School
Created:2017-01-09 08:46 CSTUpdated:2017-01-09 10:12 CST
Sites:VCRGE and Graduate School
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