Faculty reforms holiday policy

The College faculty voted last winter to amend the religious holiday policy, now requiring students to inform faculty at the start of the semester of any religious observance that will conflict with coursework. The change took effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.
The policy change was created in response to the growing religious diversity of the College’s student body with each new incoming class. According to Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Kurt Nelson, “The previous version of the policy essentially outlined particular days (Jewish High Holidays, and Christian holidays, for the most part) on which there were to be no required exams or assignments due. As the religious diversity of our campus grows, it became important to ponder how to expand that policy,” he said.
The updated policy affirms the College’s support of students and their religious practices while also holding students accountable for their academic success and class participation. “The faculty voted to put the onus on the observing student to reach out to faculty and make arrangements,” Nelson said.
Specifically, the new policy requires students to inform their professors within the first two weeks of the semester of any religious observances during the term. In September, Nelson sent out an official notice by email to remind students of the change.
According to Assistant Dean of Faculty for Academic Development James Sloat, the policy change will allow for “the most flexible and reasonable accommodation of the student’s religious observance” and will allow “the student and faculty member to work together to find the best accommodation.” The dialogue can take place over email or in person.
The list of holidays on the policy’s page of Colby’s website encompasses many religions and denominations—however, “the list […] is not exhaustive; it includes major festivals and holy days for many, though by no means all, religious traditions present in the Colby community,” the policy reads. Buddhist, Bahá’í, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Zoroastrian holidays are included on the list among many other Christian, Jewish and Islamic holy days.
The wide purview of the policy enables the College—its students, faculty and administrators—to foster a community that encourages interfaith dialogue and constructive discourse on religious issues. “Ultimately, the policy’s strongest provision is the College’s commitment to accommodate a student’s religious practice,” Sloat said.
The full text of the policy and its date of ratification can be found online on the College’s website by searching “religious holidays.”

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