The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) unanimously passed a resolution calling for the implementation of a recommended religious accommodations syllabus statement and improvement of the religious life calendar.
The sponsors of the resolution—Emma Austin ’19, Rosanne Ng ’19, and Justin Ratkovic ’20—wish to combat the stigma that surrounds asking for religious accommodations by recommending a statement, similar to statements for disability and Title IX accommodations, that faculty can put on their syllabi.
The resolution includes a sample religious accommodations statement based on the current Title IX and disability accommodations statements. The sponsors of the resolution will bring the statement before the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) in the beginning of the spring semester to ask for the EPC’s formal recommendation that faculty include the statement on their syllabi. The resolution also cites the University of Wisconsin and Williams College as examples of institutions with exemplary religious accommodations policies.
“If you anticipate that your religious observance may conflict with academic obligations such as attending class, taking examinations, or submitting assignments, you can work directly with your professor to plan reasonable accommodations,” the sample statement included in the resolution reads. “Should you require additional support or guidance, please feel free to reach out to any of the chaplains in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. A student’s claim of a religious conflict, which may include travel time, should be accepted at face value.”
The sponsors of the resolution spoke to members of interfaith groups about their experiences to inform how they drafted the resolution. They also worked extensively with Rabbi David about how religious accommodations could be enacted. As part of the implementation plan outlined in the resolution, the WSA will ask religiously-affiliated student groups both for their advice and to reach out to professors and advisors with requests to include a religious accommodations statement on their syllabi. The WSA will also seek support from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Religion Department, and the Resource Center to help implement religious accommodations that students request and spread the word about the availability of accommodations.
The initiative also calls for improving the current calendar for religious events to add more details, including recommended accommodations for each event. The resolution cites the Williams College Religious Holiday Calendar, brought forth by Rabbi David to the sponsors, as an example of how the University’s calendar could be improved.
To implement the calendar change, the WSA will reach out to the Office of Academic Affairs to update Wesleyan’s religious calendar and circulate it at the beginning of every semester. With the circulation of the calendar, the sponsors of the resolution hope that student groups can also improve upon how they accommodate their members—especially after some students expressed dissatisfaction with how groups planned events during Rosh Hashanah this semester.
The resolution was presented and passed on the Sunday, Dec. 2 meeting, after the WSA voted 24-0 to overturn bylaw Section V.05b, which requires resolutions to be presented at least a week before they are voted on. By overturning the bylaw, the sponsors of the resolution will begin work over winter break to implement the resolution, rather than having to wait for a vote during the first General Assembly meeting of the next semester.
Jocelyn Maeyama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.