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UNF revises religious related absence policy

UNF released a notice of amended regulation regarding student absences on days of religious observation May 11.   

Members of the UNF Office of General Counsel revised the document so it would be in accordance with an amendment the Board of Governors made to Florida’s constitution regarding religious observances. 

According to the regulation, students must notify professors ten days in advance of a religious holiday and must offer evidence of religious affiliation if the holy day does not appear on UNF’s university calendar as a day of religious observance. 

Under the old regulation, Section II.A. bullet four required students to make up missed work prior to the end of the term or as prescribed by the instructor at the beginning of the term.   

The amended regulation reads, “Missed work shall be made up in accordance with a timetable set by the instructor at the beginning of the term.” 

Though professors must set a timetable for completing make-up work at the beginning of the semester, Marc Snow, associate general counsel responsible for the initial draft of the revision, said there is no need for professors to include that timetable in their syllabus.  

“Accommodations are made on a pretty subjective basis,” Snow said. 

Two other sections saw changes. 

Section II.A. bullet five, which read, “Professors and university administrators shall in no way penalize students absent from academic or social activities because of religious observances,” was stricken from the revised regulation. 

“It was extraneous.  A few groups asked about the change and found that reply acceptable,” Snow said.  “It is obvious UNF will not penalize students for missing class on religious days of observance; that is the whole point of the regulation.” 

Section II.B. bullet six was amended to prevent confusion and streamline the appeals process.   

The original regulation referred students to an academic appeals document but did not say how to obtain one, so the revised regulation says that the appeals process can be initiated through One Stop Student Services. 

“Web sites like myWings can change.  It’s better to reference procedures through One Stop,” Snow said. 

Some sentences were altered to mirror the language in the Board of Governors amendment, and other minor changes were made to make the document more inclusive, Snow said. 

Sentences referring to students as “him” have been amended to “him or her,” and UNF no longer “advocates the concept of religious freedom” but instead “advocates religious freedom.” 

The amended regulation will pass before the Education Policy Committee, a subset of the Board of Trustees, May 29. If accepted, it will be reviewed by the entire Board of Trustees during their June 25 meeting.

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