Shenandoah University is committed to nondiscrimination, diversity, inclusiveness, and support for its students, faculty, employees, and staff regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation, in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations. Shenandoah will not permit religious discrimination in accordance with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As part of this commitment, the University makes good faith efforts to provide reasonable religious accommodations to those whose religious observances conflict with a University policy, procedure, or other academic or employment requirement unless such accommodation would create undue hardship to the faculty, staff, school, program, or the University at large.
Reason for the Policy
Shenandoah University is a United Methodist Church-affiliated institution of higher education. The United Methodist Church-affiliation of Shenandoah University and the Christian influences on the popular culture of the United States cause the schedule and design of the university to operate on a model that inherently privileges Protestant Christian patterns of life. Because of its United Methodist Church-affiliation and its welcoming spirit, Shenandoah University seeks to be a hospitable and supportive community for students from all religious traditions. The university environment is enriched by the religious diversity of its faculty, staff, and students. For this reason, the university needs a Religious Observance Policy to support all students in requesting accommodations for religious observances.
Religion is a way of being in the world that includes attitudes, practices, beliefs, and social organizations. Religious observances perform ways of being religious that may be personal or communal, private or public, daily or occasional.
A reasonable accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow an employee or student to practice his or her religion. This may mean any adjustment in attendance requirements and/or the academic environment that will not result in undue hardship to the University. Regardless of any accommodation that may be a granted, students are responsible for satisfying all academic objectives, requirements and prerequisites as defined by the course coordinator/instructor and by the University.
Examples of reasonable accommodations for student absences may include:
- Providing a time and/or place to pray
- Rescheduling an exam or giving a makeup exam for the student in need of a religious accommodation
- Altering the time of a student’s presentation
- Allowing assignments to substitute for missed class work. Note: the alternative work must not be more difficult than the missed class work.
Undue Hardship is a request, practice, procedure, or financial cost, which faculty determine unreasonably interferes with academic requirements or essential job functions at the University. Faculty will be required to provide a rationale whenever an undue hardship is determined.
Below are the steps involved in requesting a religious accommodation. If the instructor/coordinator and/or students have questions about the process, they should contact director/dean of their school.
Student submits the Religious Observances Request Form located in the Academic Catalogue and on the Spiritual Life website to his/her coordinator/instructor before the end of the drop/add period. Requests submitted after this date will be considered, but approval cannot be guaranteed due to the potential short notice given by the student. If the student involved is a pharmacy or health professions student, the form must also be shared with whomever approves absences for each respective school. Retroactive accommodations will not be approved.
The instructor/coordinator will evaluate the undue hardship of the request. If the coordinator/instructor has questions about the appropriateness of a request, he/she must contact the Office of Spiritual Life. It is expected that the coordinator/instructor will respond to the request in a timely manner, normally within ten (10) class days. This is intended to provide sufficient time for thoughtful consideration of all pertinent information. However, this timeframe can be extended by mutual agreement between the student and coordinator/instructor involved. If a timely response does not occur, the student should contact the appropriate department or division chair.
If the instructor/coordinator approves the absence(s), the accommodation granted for any missed work will be added to the Religious Observances Request Form. If instructor/coordinator denies the request, reasoning must be provided and the student may start the appeal process (see below). Students with an approved accommodation must be provided with a reasonable alternative to complete missed work. Students may be required by the course coordinator/instructor to complete and submit assignments prior to the day of absence. Students may also be asked to make up the missed work and are responsible for the material covered on that missed day of class.
A copy of the completed written request and its approval status will be maintained by the course coordinator/instructor until the end of the semester at which time it will be destroyed.
Absences due to an approved religious observance will be considered an excused absence and will not result in penalty. For example, absences due to a religious observance will not count against a student’s attendance record in the class. Reasonable accommodations for travel will also be excused for the religious observance. Students engaged in experiential learning (ex. clinical rotations, internships, preceptorships, student teaching, etc.) may not be able to be accommodated. It is expected that the student will follow the policy of the facility or organization where he/she is completing the rotation/internship.
If a student is denied a religious accommodation and the student believes that this was done in error, the student may start the appeals process. It is expected that each step described below will be completed in a timely manner. At each step in this process, the student may request to meet directly with the person hearing the appeal. The person hearing the appeal may meet with the student or seek the counsel of faculty members or others who may have pertinent information.
Within three (3) business days of the notice of denied accommodations, the student should make an appointment with the coordinator/instructor to discuss the grievance and to seek resolution.
If dissatisfied, the student should schedule an appointment with the appropriate department or division chair to seek a resolution.
If dissatisfied, the student should schedule an appointment with the appropriate dean or director to seek a resolution.
If dissatisfied, the student should make a written grievance to the provost. The letter must be submitted within three (3) business days of notice of the denied appeal by the student’s dean or director and should be submitted via e-mail. The letter should outline the need for a religious accommodation and include a description of an accommodation the student believes to be reasonable; additional supporting materials may also be included. If the provost sees merit in the grievance, she will review the request. If there is no merit, the student will be notified that this ruling is final.
Revised February 12, 2019