Motion from the AP Committee

February 21, 2007


Modify the Absence for Religious Observances policy (which is on p. 35 of the 2006-2007 catalog) so that it also covers absence for participation in university activities by adding the parts shown in italics below and deleting the word religious in the second sentence of the current policy. (Note: In the proposed new second sentence the word these has replaced the word religious.)
Absence for Religious Observances or Participation in University Activities

It is Mason's policy to make every reasonable effort to allow members of the campus community to observe their religious holidays, or participate in University sponsored activities (e.g., Intercollegiate Athletics, Forensics Team, Dance Company, etc.) without academic penalty. Absence from classes or exams for these reasons does not relieve students from responsibility for any part of the course work required during the absence. Students who expect to miss classes, exams, or other assignments as a consequence of their religious observance or for participation in a university activity will be provided a reasonable alternative opportunity to complete their academic responsibilities. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty with reasonable notice of the dates of major religious holidays on which they will be absent. Faculty should take religious observances into consideration when constructing class schedules and syllabi. Students requesting an excused absence for participation in a University sponsored activity must provide documentation to the instructor prior to the scheduled absence when known in advance, and as soon as possible when not known in advance.


The Colonial Academic Alliance concluded that all member institutions should have similar policies regarding absences due to participation in university activities, and the Academic Integrity Committee of this university's Athletic Council proposed the policy stated above in order to make GMU have a policy in line with the policies of other members of the alliance. (The Academic Integrity Committee voted to approve the proposed policy on Jan. 31, 2007.)

While it has been observed that for the most part GMU faculty are reasonable with regard to not penalizing students who miss a class or exam due to participation in a recognized university activity, it has also been observed that some new faculty and adjunct faculty seem reluctant to make reasonable accommodations. Perhaps in some cases the reluctance is due to a desire to do things "by the book" and avoid making exceptions, and in such instances it may be the case that having an official policy regarding absence due to participation in university activities may be helpful.

It strikes some students and faculty members as odd that GMU has a policy regarding absence due to religious observance but not one covering absence due to participation in iniversity activities.

It can be noted that the proposed policy does not specify what is meant by making a reasonable effort to accommodate students who will miss a class or exam, allowing individual faculty members to for the most part decide for themselves what is appropriate for their classes.