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The University’s expectations on this matter are articulated in the Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances.
As noted in the Policy, the University welcomes and includes students, staff, and faculty from a wide range of backgrounds, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs. The Policy includes the following provisions:
- It is the policy of the University of Toronto to arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays.
- Students have a responsibility to alert members of the teaching staff in a timely fashion to upcoming religious observances and anticipated absences. Instructors will make every reasonable effort to avoid scheduling tests, examinations, or other compulsory activities at these times. If compulsory activities are unavoidable, every reasonable opportunity should be given to these students to make up work that they miss, particularly in courses involving laboratory work. When the scheduling of tests or examinations cannot be avoided, students should be informed of the procedure to be followed to arrange to write at an alternate time.
- It is most important that no student be seriously disadvantaged because of their religious observances. However, in the scheduling of academic and other activities, it is also important to ensure that the accommodation of one group does not seriously disadvantage other groups within the University community.
Please note that the obligation not to discriminate on the basis of religion (“creed”) is a statutory duty arising from the Ontario Human Rights Code. It carries with it the obligation to accommodate religious requirements where doing so does not cause undue hardship to the University. For example, accommodation normally requires that scheduled graded term work or tests conflicting with religious requirements be adjusted by providing similar evaluation on alternate dates.
Students who will miss an examination due to a religious observance should not normally be charged an examination deferral fee. However, all other normal examination deferral procedures should apply. With respect to minimum advance notice, the Policy provides that “Students have a responsibility to alert members of the teaching staff in a timely fashion to upcoming religious observances and anticipated absences.” Since students would normally be aware of upcoming religious observances as well as examination schedules in advance, a minimum of three weeks advance notice should be considered sufficient.
Letters/documentation from faith leaders to support requests for accommodation should not be requested. The University does not request this documentation because doing so would imply a potential assessment of the sincerity of the religious practice, and not all faith traditions necessitate involvement in an organized faith community.
The following are examples of requests that students may make to be excused from classes or examinations: Holy Days; on Fridays at 1:00 p.m. for Muslim community prayers; or on the Jewish Sabbath (one-and a-half hours before sunset Friday to one-and-a-half hours after sunset Saturday).
Example Dates 2023-24
Many of the religious observances for the 2023-24 academic year are outlined in the table below. These dates are provided to assist instructors and those planning academic activities to anticipate when students might choose to seek accommodations for religious observances. Additional dates of religious observances may be found in the Multi-Faith Centre’s list of religious and cultural days and additional resources can be found on the Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture website.
It is important to note that there are many holy days associated with various faiths and that the absence of such dates on this list should not be interpreted to mean that there should be no accommodation for students who observe those holy days.
Finally, some observances are based on an interpretation of the lunar calendar, and thus may vary by one or two days depending upon the interpretation relevant to a student’s faith tradition.
For assistance in interpreting the Policy and for support in the development of divisional or departmental procedures which are consistent with the Policy, please contact Melinda Scott, Executive Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students at email@example.com.
|Eid-al-Adha*||Begins at sunset on June 28, 2023 and ends on July 2, 2023|
|Tish’a B’av||Begins at sunset on July 26, 2023 and ends on July 27, 2023|
|Rosh Hashanah||Begins at sunset on September 15, 2023 and ends on September 17, 2023|
|Yom Kippur||Begins at sunset on September 24, 2023 and ends on September 25, 2023|
|First two days of Sukkot||Begins at sunset on September 29, 2023 and the second day ends on October 1, 2023|
|National Day for Truth and Reconciliation||September 30, 2023|
|Shemini Atzeret||Begins at sunset on October 6, 2023 and ends on October 7, 2023|
|Simchat Torah||Begins at sunset on October 7, 2023 and ends on October 8, 2023|
|Diwali||November 12, 2023|
|Hanukkah||Begins at sunset on December 7, 2023 and ends on December 15, 2023|
|Epiphany||January 6, 2024|
|Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox)||January 7, 2024|
|Lunar New Year||February 10, 2024|
|Ash Wednesday||February 14, 2024|
|Ramadan*||Begins at sunset on March 10, 2024 and ends on April 9, 2024. Muslims may fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Examinations scheduled in the evening may pose a special burden.|
|International Day of Nowruz||March 21, 2024|
|Purim||Begins at sunset on March 23, 2024 and ends on March 24, 2024|
|Maundy Thursday||March 28, 2024|
|Eid-al-Fitr*||Begins at sunset on April 9, 2024 and ends on Friday, April 12, 2024|
|Vaisakhi||April 13, 2024|
|First two days of Passover||Begins at sunset on April 22, 2024 and ends on April 24, 2024|
|Last two days of Passover||Begins at sunset on April 28, 2024 and ends on April 30, 2024|
|Holy Friday (Orthodox)||May 3, 2024|
|Easter (Orthodox)||May 5, 2024|
|Red Dress Day||May 5, 2024|
|Shavuot||Begins at sunset on June 11, 2024 and ends on June 13, 2024|
|National Indigenous Peoples Day||June 21, 2024|
|Eid-al-Adha*||Begins at sunset on June 16, 2024 and ends on June 20, 2024|
Example Dates 2024-25
|Tisha B’av||Begins at sunset on August 12, 2024 and ends on August 13, 2024|
|National Day for Truth and Reconciliation||September 30, 2024|
|Rosh Hashanah||Begins at sunset on October 2, 2024 and ends on October 4, 2024|
|Yom Kippur||Begins at sunset on October 11, 2024 and ends on October 12, 2024|
|First two days of Sukkot||Begins at sunset on October 16, 2024 and the second day ends on October 18, 2024|
|Shemini Atzeret||Begins at sunset on October 23, 2024 and ends on October 24, 2024|
|Simchat Torah||Begins at sunset on October 24, 2024 and ends on October 25, 2024|
|Diwali||October 31, 2024|
|Hanukkah||Begins at sunset on December 25, 2024 and ends on January 2, 2025|
|Epiphany||January 6, 2025|
|Feast of the Nativity (Orthodox)||January 7, 2025|
|Lunar New Year||January 29, 2025|
|Ramadan*||Begins at sunset on February 28, 2025 and ends on March 30, 2025. Muslims may fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. Examinations scheduled in the evening may pose a special burden.|
|Ash Wednesday||March 5, 2025|
|Purim||Begins at sunset on March 13, 2025 and ends on March 15, 2025|
|Nowruz||March 20, 2025|
|Eid-al-Fitr*||Begins at sunset on March 30, 2025 and ends on April 2, 2025|
|First two days of Passover||Begins at sunset on April 12, 2025 and the second day ends on April 14, 2025|
|Vaisakhi||April 14, 2025|
|Maundy Thursday||April 17, 2025|
|Holy Friday (Orthodox)||April 18, 2025|
|Last two days of Passover||Begins at sunset on April 18, 2025 and ends at nightfall on April 20, 2025|
|Easter (Orthodox)||April 20, 2025|
|Red Dress Day||May 5, 2025|
|Shavuot||Begins at sunset on June 1, 2025 and ends on June 3, 2025|
|Eid al-Adha*||Begins at sunset on June 6, 2025 and ends on June 10, 2025|
|National Indigenous Peoples Day||June 21, 2025|
Accommodation for the Hajj Pilgrimage
The Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca for some Muslims. As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the dates for the month of Dhu al-Hijjah change each year. Because the month must begin and end on sighting of the moon, the estimated dates for the Hajj over the next two years are as follows:
- First day: on or around Friday, June 14
- Last day: on or around Wednesday, June 19
- First day: on or around Wednesday, June 4
- Last day: on or around Monday, June 9
While the pilgrimage itself last only a limited number of days, pilgrims travel as a group and most groups leave a minimum of two weeks in advance in order to complete related obligations. The early departure means that students would likely have to leave at a time that may affect a number of academic activities. Furthermore, because of the dates being fixed for the entire group, there is often very little flexibility.
The Policy provides that “It is the policy of the University of Toronto to arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays.” While the Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation, there are several related factors that may compel our students to make the decision to attend to that rite of passage in any particular year and/or at a time that conflicts with a scheduled academic events or activities. These issues pertain to their potential need to accompany family members on this journey, as well as issues of financial ability.
It is not the University’s role to pass judgment of the necessity of students to partake in an activity that may be central to their faith, but rather to help determine what would comprise reasonable accommodation without causing undue hardship to the activities of the institution. With respect to final exams, the customary practice is to allow for exams to be deferred until the next exam period. Students should be encouraged to make the request through their college or divisional offices.