(Approved by the Senate on February 28, 2017)
Guidelines on academic accommodation for religious observances by students
1. The University of Ottawa values its diverse community and wishes to formalize its practices on accommodation for religious observances by students. In March of each year, the Registrar informs the Deans of the dates of commonly cited religious holidays for the upcoming academic year to facilitate the handling of requests for accommodation for religious observances.
2. The Ontario Human Rights Code (“Code”) provides that every person has the right to equal treatment with respect to services without discrimination because of creed. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has stated that “creed” means a professed system and confession of faith, including beliefs and observances, if the beliefs and observances are sincerely held and/or observed. “Creed” does not include secular, moral or ethical beliefs or political convictions.
3. These Guidelines outline a process for addressing religious observances that conflict with the scheduling of a student’s academic or course-specific requirements. It is intended to assist in responding to students’ religious observances while ensuring that the integrity of the course or program of study is not compromised. The term “reasonable accommodation” used in these Guidelines will depend on the facts and the circumstances present in each individual case.
Procedure for making a request
4. A student who wishes to make a request for an accommodation based on his or her religious observance must do so by submitting a written or electronic request to the professor responsible for the course or to the appropriate authority designated by the faculty. The request for accommodation must identify the nature of the religious observance and the requested accommodation. The student is expected to assist the professor or designated authority in efforts to implement reasonable accommodation, including in identifying solutions that may be reasonably pursued to address the request.
5. The following timelines should be observed when a request for accommodation is initiated:
a. for an academic requirement published in the course syllabus or otherwise communicated during or before the first class: within two weeks of the start of the course;
b. for an academic requirement communicated after the first class: within five working days of the requirement being communicated to the class; and
c. for a final examination: within five working days of the publication of the final examination schedule.
6. The professor or designated authority and student will consult to reach an agreement on the reasonable accommodation arrangement. If the professor or designated authority requests clarification or additional information, the student must respond in a timely manner, normally within a maximum of five working days. The professor or designated authority may consult with other University staff while respecting confidentiality policy as appropriate.
7. If a mutually agreeable solution cannot be reached within a reasonable time period, taking into account relevant academic deadlines and the time required for arrangements to be finalized, the student must immediately send a written request to the Vice-Dean of Undergraduate or of Graduate Studies or other person designated by the Faculty who will make a final decision.
8. The Vice-Dean of Undergraduate or of Graduate Studies or designate may request additional information from the student or the professor and may consult with other University staff, where appropriate. The Vice-Dean of Undergraduate or of Graduate Studies or designate will inform the student and the professor of his or her decision in writing, usually within two weeks of the student’s request to the Vice-Dean of Undergraduate or of Graduate Studies or designate.
9. In cases of questions or concerns, the professor or Vice-Dean of Undergraduate or of Graduate Studies or designate may consult the University’s Legal Services.