Policy Details


Date of Last Update
11/19/2012

Approved By
  • President's Cabinet

Responsible Office
Inclusion and Equity/Office of Affirmative Action

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Religious Inclusion Policy

PC 9.6

  1. Policy Statement
  2. Procedures

Policy Statement

Possessing and mastering a range of thoughtful perspectives is necessary for open inquiry, a liberal education, and a healthy community. Recognizing this, the University seeks to include, engage, and support a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff. The institution values a multiplicity of opinions and backgrounds, and is dedicated to incorporating multiple voices and experiences into every aspect of its operations. We are committed to building institutional capacity and strengthening our liberal education through providing an inclusive environment for all of our University constituents.

Purpose
Many University students, staff, and faculty observe religious traditions from a variety of religions. This Religious Inclusion Policy (“Policy”) acknowledges the right of students, staff, and faculty to engage in religious observances. The University is committed to accommodate the exercise of that right.

The University acknowledges that conflicts in scheduling mandatory academic requirements and employment obligations with religious observances are inevitable. Although the University does not observe religious holidays, it recognizes that there are a number of religious holidays that affect significant numbers of our students, staff, and faculty. This Policy is intended to provide clarity to students, staff, and faculty who seek accommodation to practice their faith. 

Procedures

Accommodations
Grand Valley State University will make a reasonable effort to allow its students, staff, or faculty to be away from work or a class to observe their religious beliefs, except where accommodating the request would result in undue hardship on the University in its mission, operation or in meeting its academic standards. The University provides quiet areas for student, staff, and faculty reflection, meditation, and prayer. A list of these quiet areas may be found on the Inclusion and Equity webpage.

Faculty should be sensitive to the observance of religious holidays so that students who miss classes to practice their faith are not disadvantaged. A list of religious holidays is found on the 

Inclusion and Equity website. Please note that this list is meant to be inclusive of most major religious traditions (although certainly not comprehensive), and that religious holidays have no official status at the University.

Faculty should make every effort to avoid scheduling examinations or assigning work that is due on religious holidays. Some religious holidays begin at sundown on the evening before the published date of the holiday. Consequently, faculty should avoid scheduling late afternoon exams on these days.

Faculty shall not penalize any student who has properly notified the faculty member by complying with the Request Accommodation Procedure for his/her absence in classes, examination, or assignments. Faculty should accept a student’s claim of a scheduling conflict on religious grounds at face value. If class attendance is required by the faculty member, classes missed to observe a religious holiday may not be counted as an absence.

Faculty must provide a reasonable opportunity for such a student to make up missed assignments and examinations within a reasonable time period before or after the student’s absence, provided the student has properly notified the faculty member by submitting a Request Accommodation Form. Faculty must give the student the opportunity to do appropriate make-up work that is no more difficult or time-consuming than the original exam or assignment.

Nothing in this Policy, however, exempts a student from meeting course requirements or completing assignments. The faculty member may respond appropriately if the student fails to satisfactorily complete the make-up assignment or examination.

Further, when scheduling university events and activities, such as Family Weekend, Commencement, Convocation, and University sponsored conferences, planners should consult the list of religious holidays on the Inclusion and Equity website before selecting the date and time to ensure inclusiveness. 

Religious Accommodation Procedure

All requests for accommodation for religious observance should be made in the following manner: 

Students: Faculty should inform students of all examination dates and assignment deadlines at the start of each semester in the class syllabus. If a conflict with a religious observance exists, students must request a religious accommodation from their faculty within the first two weeks of each semester or as soon as reasonably possible after the instructor announces a particular mandatory class, examination, or assignment so that alternative arrangements can be made for any class, examinations, or assignments missed. If an accommodation is needed within the first two weeks of the semester, the student must provide the faculty member with reasonable advance notice of the need for accommodation. Requests for accommodation must be made through a Religious Accommodation Form, which may be found at the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Affirmative Action or under “Forms” at www.gvsu.edu/inclusion. It is the student’s responsibility to provide faculty with reasonable notice of the need for accommodation and the timing of the notice may be taken into account in determining whether granting the request would create an undue hardship.

The faculty member and the student should discuss and agree upon what would constitute a reasonable accommodation in each given case. If the student and faculty member agree upon an accommodation, the accommodation must be carried out and disclosed on the Religious Accommodation Form. The completed Religious Accommodation Form shall be filed by the faculty member in the Dean of Students Office.

If the student and faculty member cannot agree on an accommodation, either party may bring the matter to the Unit Head to determine the accommodation. Either party may appeal the Unit Head’s decision to the Dean, who will make a final binding decision.

Where a student has obligations to a placement site (e.g. internships), that student must also work out arrangements with the placement site to make up for missed responsibilities or duties.

Staff: The use of vacation and personal leave is governed by the staff member’s respective Board of Trustees' Policies, Staff Handbook, or Collective Bargaining Agreement. Vacation days requested for the express purpose of religious observance will not be unreasonably denied by the staff member’s supervisor if the staff member has accrued vacation leave or is eligible for personal leave and the granting of leave or vacation time will not result in undue hardship for GVSU.

Faculty: The use of vacation and personal leave is governed by the Faculty Handbook. Requests by a faculty member for leave for religious accommodation, however, shall be considered under this Policy if the faculty member has made arrangements for any missed classes and the granting of the leave will not result in undue hardship for GVSU. Faculty that miss class time due to a religious observance must make alternate arrangements for that time with his or her Unit Head. If the Unit Head denies the request, the faculty member may appeal to the Dean, who will have final decision authority over the request.

Nothing in this Policy exempts a GVSU faculty or staff member from fulfilling their job responsibilities. 

Confidentiality
Although discretion will be exercised, a guarantee of confidentiality or anonymity cannot be made because the determination of a reasonable religious accommodation will involve discussions with other parties. Information about the request for religious accommodation will be revealed only as the deliberation process requires. Discretion will be observed to the extent permitted by law and that is consistent with protecting the welfare of the students, staff, and faculty and the interests of the University.

Retaliation
Any attempt to retaliate against an individual who files a religious accommodation request or otherwise utilizes this Policy is prohibited.