Motion from the AP Committee

March 7, 2007


Modify the Absence for Religious Observances policy (which is on p. 35 of the 2006-2007 catalog) so that it will appear as shown below, adjusted to reflect faculty concerns about responsibilities and limitations, and so that it also covers absence for participation in university activities.
Absence for Religious Observances or Participation in University Activities

It is Mason's policy to encourage its faculty to make a reasonable effort to allow students to observe their religious holidays or to 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 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, consistent with class attendence policies stated in the syllabus, to make up the missed work. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty, within the first two weeks of the semester, with the dates of major religious holidays on which they will be absent, and the dates for which they are requesting an excused absence for participation in any university-sponsored activity scheduled prior to the start of the semester, and as soon as possible otherwise. Students requesting an excused absence for participation in a university-sponsored activity must provide their instructor with letter from a university official stating the dates and times that participation in the activity would result in the student missing class. Faculty are encouraged to take religious observances into consideration when constructing class schedules and syllabi.


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 requested that our attendence policy be modified to cover absences due to participation in university-sponsored activities.

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 university 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.