At Wheaton, we strive to “foster a collective sense of engagement, affirmation and belonging, where everyone is proud to be a member of our community.” Many traditions include holidays and observations that fall inside the formal academic calendar. Wheaton is committed to allowing all students to participate in their community’s rites, rituals, and celebrations without penalty.

Student Absence Due to Religious Holiday Observance

Massachusetts law and Wheaton College 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, if such accommodation does not create an unreasonable burden.

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.

In general, students are permitted to be absent from class, including classes involving examinations, labs, excursions, and other special events, for purposes of religious observance.  In-class, take-home and lab assignments, and other work shall be made up in consultation with the student’s faculty.  All religious observances, within all religious traditions, are subject to this accommodation.  In cases where clarification is needed, faculty should contact the Office of the Provost ([email protected]).

The following guidelines should be followed:

  • When preparing syllabi, faculty should be mindful of major days of religious observance.  We encourage faculty (and all members of the Wheaton community) to take note of the calendar of religious and cultural holidays circulated to the campus by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life each year to avoid conflicts with major events, exams, assignment due dates, and other significant events where possible.
  • Faculty should provide students with the dates and times for examinations and other major course obligations at the beginning of the semester or summer session.
  • Students are required to inform faculty, in writing, of conflicts with the course schedule and requirements due to their religious observance as early as possible in the semester, and no later than one week in advance of conflict, so that accommodations can be made.
  • Once a student informs faculty of a conflict due to religious observance, the faculty and student should seek to arrive at mutually acceptable alternative arrangements for class work and examinations.  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.  Make-up examinations and work should be arranged so as not to place unreasonable burden upon either the student or the faculty or school.  To avoid misunderstandings, the agreed-upon arrangement should be put in writing.  If the student and faculty are unable to find a mutually acceptable solution, the matter should be referred by the faculty to the Chair of the Department.

Student Absence Due to Cultural Holiday Observance

Where students anticipate conflicts with course schedules and requirements due to their cultural observance, students and faculty should follow the same guidelines outlined above.

Athletic and Other College Events

The College also strongly encourages staff to take note of the calendar of religious and cultural holidays circulated to the campus by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life each year to avoid conflicts with significant events where possible.  Where student-athletes anticipate conflicts with athletic events due to their religious or cultural observance, the College encourages athletic staff to work with students to excuse attendance and to seek to arrive at mutually acceptable alternative arrangements where possible.