UNF Revises Student Religious Absence Rules

Spinnaker

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

Members of the 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 10 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 makeup 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.

When the regulation passed before the Education Policy Committee – a subset of the Board of Trustees – May 29, a member of the Spinnaker staff raised a discussion during open comments about the questionability of a timetable set at the beginning of the semester that is not required to be shared with students at that time.

After discussion, the committee agreed to address the faculty about the issue and bring it back to the table at the following full Board of Trustees meeting June 25.

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,” Snow said. “A few groups asked about the change and found that reply acceptable. 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 state how to obtain one, so the revised regulation states the appeals process can be initiated through One Stop Student Services.

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

By referring students to One Stop, the new regulation makes the appeals process easier and more personal.

Students may now speak to an actual person to initiate an appeal instead of trying to track down the document

.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.”

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