Provost’s office issues statement reminding faculty to grant reasonable accommodations to Muslim students during final examination period
By Fateme Tavakoli | 02/05/2019
The Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights issued a statement Jan. 18 announcing the University will be providing academic accommodations for Muslim students observing Ramadan during finals period this semester. The statement advises faculty to “anticipate receiving requests for religious accommodations” from their students and to approve “reasonable” requests.
The start of Ramadan on May 6 will coincide with the University exam schedule, which begins May 2 and ends May 10. The statement instructs faculty to be mindful of Muslim students’ requests for religious accommodation in the form of rescheduling final exams.
Al Ahmed, a fourth-year College student and the president of Muslim Student Association, said he contacted Vicki Gist, director of Multicultural Student Services, expressing a concern that the exam schedule and Ramadan would present a conflict. He requested that the University offer academic accommodations to Muslim students during final examination week.
“We actually advocated for this — someone in our [executive board] brought it up to us in one of our meetings, and we’ve been working on it since the beginning of fall semester,” Ahmed said. “I first brought it up to Vicki Gist, and then I brought it up to the Student Council president. Ultimately, it made its way up to Thomas Katsouleas, and they issued a statement. That’s how we got it to be recognized throughout the University.”
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Catherine Spear, associate vice president of EOCR, said that they were contacted by Asst. Dean Gist about the conflict between Ramadan and the University’s exam schedule. The Office of Provost and EOCR then released a statement to ensure students will not suffer academic consequences while practicing religious observances.
“The University’s Notice of Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Statement and Policy on Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment both espouse the University’s longstanding commitment to ensure equity and prohibit discrimination based on religion,” Spear wrote. “We wanted to issue the reminder early in the semester to facilitate advanced planning and any support that might be needed.”
Ahmed further discussed the importance of religious accommodations for Muslim students, so they can freely practice their religion without facing academic hardships, particularly while taking exams. During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sundown — which includes abstinence from food and drink.
“It obviously impacts our community a lot because the student are going to be fasting — we really wanted the faculty to be mindful of our students who will be fasting for long hours,” Ahmed said. “The time to break the fast will be around 7:30 [p.m.] and 8:00 [p.m.] which is midway through the [7 p.m. to 10 p.m.] exam. That’s challenging because you’re fasting all day with no food and no water.”
Ahmed also mentioned that the MSA is in the process of working with the University dining services to make adjustments to dining halls’ hours and services during Ramadan.
“That’s the second step we’re working towards,” Ahmed said. “Most of students have meal plans, and the dining halls close pretty early. We just want them to be flexible, and we’re still working with U.Va. dining to see if they can provide accommodations for students.”