Information for Faculty on Accommodating Religious Observances
Illinois law requires the University to reasonably accommodate its students' religious beliefs, observances, and practices in regard to admissions, class attendance, and the scheduling of examinations and work requirements.
Illinois State Law
(110 ILCS 110/) University Religious Observances Act.
- (110 ILCS 110/1) (from Ch. 144, par. 2101)
Sec. 1. A public institution of higher education shall adopt a policy which reasonably accommodates the religious observance of individual students in regard to admissions, class attendance, and the scheduling of examinations and work requirements. This policy shall include a grievance procedure by which a student who believes that he or she has been unreasonably denied an educational benefit due to his or her religious belief or practices may seek redress. Such policy shall be made known to faculty and students annually by inclusion in the institution's handbook, manual or other similar document regularly provided to faculty and students. For the purposes of this Section (a) "public institution of higher education" means the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, the public community colleges of the State and any other public universities, colleges and community colleges now or hereafter established or authorized by the General Assembly; and (b) "religious observance" or "religious practice" includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.
(Source: P.A. 89-4, eff. 1-1-96.)
- (110 ILCS 110/1.5)
Sec. 1.5. Absence of student due to religious beliefs.
(a) In this Section, "institution of higher learning" has the meaning ascribed to that term in the Higher Education Student Assistance Act.
(b) Any student in an institution of higher learning, other than a religious or denominational institution of higher learning, who is unable, because of his or her religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study, or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination, study, or work requirement and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up the examination, study, or work requirement that he or she may have missed because of such absence on a particular day; provided that the student notifies the faculty member or instructor well in advance of any anticipated absence or a pending conflict between a scheduled class and the religious observance and provided that the make-up examination, study, or work does not create an unreasonable burden upon the institution. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the student such an opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his or her availing himself or herself of the provisions of this Section.
(Source: P.A. 97-1038, eff. 1-1-13.)
University of Illinois Student Code
§ 1-107 Religious Beliefs, Observances, and Practices
(a.) Illinois law requires the University to reasonably accommodate its students’ religious beliefs, observances, and practices in regard to admissions, class attendance, and the scheduling of examinations and work requirements. (See § 1-501; Article 3, Part 2.)
(b.) Any student may appeal in writing an instructor’s decision on a request based on religious beliefs, observances, and practices to the dean of the academic unit offering the course. Before taking action, the dean or director should request that the instructor explain his or her decision in writing.
§ 1-501 Class Attendance
(4) University policy and state law require that all instructors reasonably accommodate conflicts with class attendance and work requirements resulting from a student’s religious beliefs, observances, and practices. (See § 1-107.) Students seeking an excused absence for religious reasons should complete the Request for Accommodation for Religious Observances Form, which can be found on the Office of the Dean of Students website. The student should submit this form to the instructor and the Office of the Dean of Students by the end of the second week of the course to which it applies.
Application and Best Practices
- A statement on a course syllabus informing students of the process for seeking a religious accommodation for a course commitment—and which includes a deadline for such a request—helps raise awareness and defines expectations.
- Having to create/give a make-up exam is unlikely to meet the standard for an “unreasonable burden upon the institution” that would warrant denial of an accommodation request under 110 ILCS 110.
- If an instructor has a policy of allowing students to drop their lowest midterm/assignment grade in calculation of the final course grade, it is not recommended to require that a student utilize this option for missing a midterm/assignment due to absence from class for a religious observance.
- Similarly, if a student is permitted to miss (any) class(es) without penalty (for up to a given number of classes), it is not recommended that faculty count an absence for a religious observance toward that allotment; rather, it should be an excused absence independent of that tally.
- A student should not be required to submit evidence of attendance at a religious service in order to receive an accommodation.
To assist in planning for any future conflicts, an interfaith calendar of primary sacred times for world religions is available here. Another version of an interfaith calendar in excel format (xls) is also available, and if you would like to import these dates into your Outlook or Google calendar, you can find instructions at Google calendar and Outlook calendar. Given the diversity of students who attend the University of Illinois, these calendars are not all-inclusive and are not intended to exclude any religion, sacred time, or days of religious observance.
Option for an Absence Letter
Instructors may request that students procure an absence letter from the Office of the Dean of Students related to any class sessions missed due to religious observances.
To request this letter, students should complete the Request for Accommodation for Religious Observances form (pdf) and submit copies to the Student Assistance Center (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the instructor for each course the student will miss. In order to best facilitate planning and communication between students and faculty, students should be encouraged to make requests for absence letters by the end of the second week of the course in the semester in which the request applies. In the case of exams or assignments that are scheduled after the first two weeks of the semester, students should submit the form as soon as possible. Per our protocol, upon receipt of the request form, the Student Assistance Center will provide an absence letter which students may also forward to the requesting instructor.
Please Note: Absence letters approved for religious observances are intended for the date or dates of the observance only; they do not include dates for potential travel.