Statement on Academic Accommodations for Religious Holidays

Although Northwestern University does not as an institution observe religious holidays, the academic calendar is designed to avoid conflicts with observed holidays, such as July 4, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and Christmas. As the diversity of our community has increased, additional religious holidays now affect a significant number of students and faculty. Consistent with our commitment of creating an academic community that is respectful of and welcoming to persons of differing backgrounds, we believe that every reasonable effort should be made to allow members of the university community to observe their religious holidays without jeopardizing the fulfillment of their religious obligations.

In particular, we believe that:

  • Faculty should provide course syllabi at the beginning of each term that specify dates of exams and due dates of assignments. Every effort should be made to avoid scheduling exams on religious holidays. (A calendar of religious holidays will be maintained on the Office of the University Chaplain web site.) It is the responsibility of students to review these syllabi as soon as they are distributed and to consult the faculty member promptly regarding any possible conflicts. Upon the timely request of students, faculty members should, whenever possible, reschedule exams and assignment deadlines that fall on religious holidays. In some cases, it may be advisable for the student to change sections or courses.
  • Students should not be penalized for class absences because of religious holidays. Students should notify the faculty member of conflicts due to religious holidays well in advance of any anticipated absence. If asked, the student should provide accurate information about the obligations entailed in the observance of that particular holiday.
  • Faculty should be permitted to reschedule class meetings that conflict with their observance of a religious holiday, assuring that appropriate advance notice is provided to both students and the department chairperson and/or dean.

In the past, issues such as those raised in this statement have been successfully handled by informal discussions among students, faculty, and administrators, when necessary. We hope and expect that such accommodations will continue to be made in the future. In the event, however, that agreement can not be reached through informal means, the student or faculty member should bring the issue to the office of the relevant school dean or, if necessary, to the Provost's office. In the event that advice in resolving the issue is needed, the Provost may seek the counsel of a three person committee chaired by the University Chaplain and including a student nominated by the Associated Student Government and a faculty member nominated by the General Faculty Committee.

Holidays observed by many members of the university community include, but are not limited to: Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur; Sukkot; Passover; Shavuot; 'Id al-Fitr; 'Id al-Adha, and Good Friday. Information about these holidays and the dates of their observance is available on the web page maintained by the University Chaplain. More detailed information is also available on this web site. Please note that Jewish holidays begin at sundown the evening before the date listed.

Responsible Office: Office of the Provost

Who Needs to Know This Policy: All Northwestern community members

Contacts: If you have any questions on this Policy, contact

Dated: May, 2013