RISD embraces a diverse population of students, including those with religious affiliations and others who don’t practice any specific faith. The Religious Observance Policy communicates the college’s official policy and provides guidance to students on how to support requests for religious observances while maintaining RISD’s commitment to its academic mission.
Statement on religious observance for RISD students:
Absence for Religious Holy Days
RISD respects the religious beliefs of all members of the community, affirms their rights to observe significant religious holy days, and will make reasonable accommodations, upon request, for such observances. If one’s religious observance is in conflict with the academic experience, the student is welcome to inform his/her instructor(s) of class or other school-functions that will be affected. It is the student’s responsibility to make the necessary arrangements mutually agreed upon by the instructor(s).
Types of instances / absences that the policy supports:
- Class absence - excused absence from a scheduled academic class / classes due to a religious conflict that falls on the same day as the class itself. Missing a class due to travel associated with a particular holiday does not constitute an excused absence and faculty do not have to consider such requests for accommodations.
- Missed exam – excused absence from an exam scheduled on a date / time in conflict with a religious holy day. Reasonable accommodations can be made to take the exam earlier or later than the date / time in conflict. If instructors require a make up exam, they retain the right to determine the content of the exam, the conditions of its administration, with considerations given to equitable treatment. Missing an exam due to travel associated with a particular holiday does not constitute an excused absence and faculty do not have to consider such requests for accommodations.
- Deadline conflict – reasonable accommodations for academic work that is due on a date / time in conflict with a religious holy day. In such cases work can be submitted earlier or later than the date in conflict. Missing a deadline due to travel associated with a particular holiday does not constitute an excused absence and faculty do not have to consider such requests for accommodations.
Process and Expectations
Students requesting absence from class, excuse from an exam day, or accommodations with an academic deadline, should notify the faculty member(s) as soon as the conflict is identified. Out of respect for the academic process, students should notify faculty no later than three weeks into the academic term.
Steps / Tips for working with your professors:
- Make contact with your instructor(s) well in advance, ideally at the beginning of the academic term. Review the course syllabus and identify dates in potential conflict with your religious observance.
- Speak with your instructor(s) about and submit in writing the dates(s) and time(s) you plan to absent. This should be done no later than three weeks into the academic term
- Be prepared to discuss the personal, social, or cultural relevance of your request to be excused for religious observance.
- Discuss if, realistically, you need to be absent for all or part of the class.
- Present potential alternatives if you’re planning to be absent during a critical class session.
- Discuss how you plan to obtain missed info or materials due to your absence. Absence from class does not necessarily excuse you from any information shared during the missed class or other class expectations.
If a student feels that a reasonable accommodation is being denied, she or he should discuss the issue with the relevant department head. If after speaking with the department head, the student feels that reasonable accommodation is being denied, she or he should discuss the issue with the Dean of that division who will serve as the final authority. Student can seek advice or guidance at any point by speaking with the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, or the Office of Multicultural Affairs.