Students seek accommodations to excuse absences during religious holidays

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A resolution to allow excused absences for religious reasons is not on track to pass before April. The resolution will encompass all religions practiced by students. Credit: Courtesy of Khalid Dada

Students are advocating for the university to allow excused absences during religious holidays.

A resolution, created by Undergraduate Student Government representative for the University Senate Manar Alrjub, a second-year in public management , aims to modify faculty rules to include a religious exemption from attending class on certain dates.

Faculty Rule 3335-9-21 currently states that a department or school can make its own rules around absences but does not mention religious exemptions.

Alrjub said the resolution would require instructors to excuse students from class without penalty for religious reasons if they provide them with two weeks’ notice. She said the resolution would also require students to meet academic requirements despite their absence, but instructors would need to make reasonable accommodations for missed coursework.

“They’re held accountable for the work they missed, but professors are mindful that these students missed class because it was an important reason,” Alrjub said. “When they come back, we expect that they’re treated that way, and maybe they’re given extended time or they’re given a minimized assignment.”

Khalid Dada, a third-year in public policy analysis and co-president of the Muslim Student Association, said he and co-President Amina Basharat helped Alrjub draft the resolution when they realized Ramadan will overlap with the end of the spring semester. Ramadan, a holy month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, will take place April 2 to May 2.

The resolution would include students who practice any religion, not just Islam, Dada said, and would resemble how the University Registrar currently provides accommodations for Muslim students to take assessments after sundown, when they can break their fast, during Ramadan.

University spokesperson Chris Booker said in an email the university expects faculty to work with students for religious accommodations.

“Ohio State respects the shared governance model and therefore typically does not take positions on issues University Senate is actively considering,” Booker said.

Before the rule change can go into effect, the resolution must be passed by the University Senate and then the Board of Trustees, Alrjub said.

Passing the resolution to modify university rules has taken longer than intended because university stakeholders have been unable to meet to discuss the issue, Alrjub said. She said the resolution must be approved by the University Senate Steering Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, be scheduled again by the Steering Committee for a Senate vote, passed by the Senate and then finally passed by the Board of Trustees.

Stakeholders in charge of approving the resolution have irregular schedules — some meet as little as twice per semester — and Alrjub said if the resolution is not passed by all parties in February, it will not be considered until after April.

Though meetings with key faculty have mostly been on schedule to meet their desired deadline, Dada said he wishes university leadership was more accessible.

“We as students are doing our best,” Dada said. “But we’re calling on them so that they’re ensuring that this is of importance, and that this is something that they’re worried about and thinking about actively, especially as we grow as a university.”

Dada said the Office of Academic Affairs struck down a draft of a second resolution, which would provide information about religious resources and accomodations at the university in course syllabi. He said the resolution was altered because the university cannot force professors to include anything in their course syllabi.

The current version of the resolution urges university leaders to advocate for the inclusion of information in syllabi about religious accommodations and requesting and receiving excused absences for religious reasons, Dada said.

“We’ve been working on this one resolution now for about four months,” Dada said. “It’s something that shouldn’t even be questioned if someone needs religious accommodation. That should be something that’s already offered by our university and should be in the rules.”

Alrjub and the Muslim Student Association also collaborated with the Undergraduate Student Government, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the University Registrar in drafting the resolution.

“With making good and everlasting change, it takes a lot of work, ” Dada said. “It’s very frustrating, but you have to learn to be patient.”

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