Religious Observance Attendance

Massachusetts law and Emerson College policy require faculty and staff to accommodate students who are absent due to religious observance and to provide them with a reasonable opportunity to make up an examination, study, or work requirement missed due to their religious observance, provided such accommodation does not create an unreasonable burden. In cases where clarification is needed, faculty or students should contact the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life.

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151C, Section 2B, states:

“Any student in an educational or vocational training institution, other than a religious or denominational educational or vocational training institution, who is unable, because of his 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 or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study, or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on any particular day; provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section.”

Guidelines for implementing this policy:

  • If a professor permits one or more excused absences in the syllabus, students may use such excused absences for the purposes of religious observance. Students shall make up in-class, take-home, and other work in consultation with the student's professors. Religious observances within all sincerely-held religious traditions and beliefs have this right within the constraints of the credit hours per class.
  • Professors should provide students with the dates and times for examinations and other major course obligations at the beginning of the semester or summer session, ideally in their syllabi. When preparing syllabi, professors should be mindful of major days of religious observance, particularly work-restricted religious holidays, a list of which is provided by the Center for Spiritual Life. Since days of religious observation in most faiths are known and predictable, normally students should inform professors, in writing, of conflicts with the course schedule and requirements due to their religious observance as early as possible in the semester, and ideally by the end of the second week of class, so that the student and the professor can arrange for appropriate makeup.
  • In general, the student must be given the opportunity to do appropriate make-up work that is equivalent to the original examination, assignment, or other academic exercise. This could be the same work with a different due date, or a substantially similar exercise at another time. However, some class activities and experiences are not easily replicated, and students should understand that under certain circumstances the faculty member will be unable to create a substantially similar activity or experience. Furthermore, frequent or extended absences may impair a student’s progress in class and affect the student’s ability to obtain academic credit for the class. Make-up examinations and work should be arranged so as not to place an unreasonable burden upon either the student or the College. Once a student informs a professor of a conflict due to religious observance, the professor and student should seek to arrive at mutually acceptable alternative arrangements for class work and examinations. To avoid misunderstandings, the professor and the student should put the agreed-upon arrangement in writing. If the student and instructor are unable to find a mutually acceptable solution, the professor or the student should refer the matter to the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life who will discuss the issue with the department chair.