At the start of Fall Quarter, the Provost asked the University community to “accommodate the observation of religious and cultural practices and holidays.” In 2009, the UW Faculty Senate voted to endorse a “Resolution Concerning Observance of Central Cultural and Religious Practices” (Class C Bulletin No. 487): “BE IT RESOLVED, that we urge faculty and students to work together to accommodate students’ scheduling constraints in observing their central religious and cultural practices.”
We are writing today to reaffirm our commitment to accommodating religious observance as part of our practices of diversity and inclusion. One specific concern that has been brought to our attention is that this year, spring quarter final exam week coincides with the month of Ramadan, meaning that a number of students of Muslim faith will be fasting as part of their religious observance. May 15th is the anticipated first day of Ramadan, and breaking of the fast will take place at 8:39 pm. That time increases by around one minute every day for 30 days, so the end of Ramadan will be June 15, and breaking of fast will be around 9:20 pm.
Many of you may recall that two colleagues in STEM, Bryan White and Rania Hussein, brought awareness to this situation last year and worked with other STEM faculty to offer two separate exam times, one during the regularly scheduled time during the day, and a second exam after sundown when students could break their fast. The alternate exam time was offered to all students with the goal, as Bryan said, of “supporting the education of all of my students.” Our STEM colleagues received a good bit of national attention and appreciation for these efforts (see, for example, http://college.usatoday.com/2017/06/13/prof-offers-alternate-exam-time-for-muslim-students-observing-ramadan/). I am grateful to both Bryan and Rania for the leadership they provided in setting an example for the campus community.
UWB students were very appreciative of Bryan and Rania’s efforts last year and approached the Diversity Council with a request that faculty be encouraged to adopt these practices for their classes this year and into the future. At its February 8 meeting, the Diversity Council discussed this request and made a series of recommendations regarding support for students’ religious observances, specifically those who are fasting during exam periods. While we will be scheduling opportunities for broad campus conversations about best practices for accommodation of religious practices in educational environments, our immediate goal today is to provide some guidelines for addressing the more immediate issue arising with spring quarter exams.
After consultation with the Chancellor, the GFO EC, and academic deans, we propose the following:
- We encourage all UWB faculty to consider including the following language in your course syllabi for spring quarter to indicate support for students’ religious observances:
“UW Bothell makes every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance. Students should provide written requests to faculty at least three weeks in advance of a need to be excused from a class, an exam, or other scheduled academic activity to observe a religious holiday of their faith. Students should make arrangements with faculty in advance to make up the exam, class material or activities covered in their absence, including agreements for alternate exam options.”
- While individual faculty may choose to supervise alternate exams themselves, to support faculty in adopting this recommendation for the spring quarter, the VCAA office will:
- Provide proctored classrooms that will be made available for students to take alternate exams;
- Post in advance a schedule for those proctored exam classrooms;
- Insure that Disability Resources for Students services are available at those times;
- Provide compensation for proctors who will be available to supervise students taking exams and insure that proctors are informed of any specific exam requirements.
We recognize that this accommodation will disproportionately impact faculty who offer exams in finals week rather than essays or other forms of assessment. We deeply appreciate that this request presents additional work for these colleagues, since we know that many of you may choose to create a second exam to enact this accommodation. We thank you in advance for the additional work this creates for you as you continue to support our students.
In addition to this effort, in collaboration with the Diversity Council, the Teaching and Learning Center, and the GFO, we will begin broader conversations about policies related to religious observance in the classroom as well as develop a list of suggested practices for supporting religious accommodations in the classroom. For a UW calendar of holidays and religious observances, please see: https://www.washington.edu/students/reg/religcal.html
Thanks for your support of this effort to implement our continued campus commitment to student learning. We will be sending additional information during spring quarter that includes the specific proctored exam schedule. As part of our ongoing development of best practices, we will continue to consult with the faculty and staff affected, the GFO, the Diversity Council, the TLC, and student representatives.
Susan Jeffords, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Wayne Au, Chair, Diversity Council
Scott Kurashige, Senior Advisor to the VCAA on Faculty Diversity and Initiatives
Robin Angotti, Interim Director, Teaching and Learning Center
2017 Annual Retreat