UB’s Academic Calendar and the Jewish Holidays
Frequently Asked Questions
Beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, classes will be held at
the University at Buffalo on the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur.
Why has this change taken place?
UB is an increasingly multicultural public institution that
enrolls students of dozens of cultures and religious faiths. Even
the holiest of their holy days are not class free, however. The
exceptions are the Christian holy days of Christmas, which is a
national holiday on which the entire university is closed, and
Easter, which falls on a Sunday when classes are not in
The Faculty Senate Executive Committee, which recommends the
academic calendar to UB’s president, asked for this revision
to establish at UB a policy more appropriate for a state
institution. These calendar modifications are intended to insure
greater continuity in the academic schedule and minimize course
disruption for students.
These changes are consistent with practices at many of
UB’s fellow public institutions, including many SUNY
Does this change apply to all university calendars?
The change applies to all university academic calendars,
including the undergraduate and graduate academic calendar, as well
as those of the Schools of Dental Medicine, Law, and Medicine and
Haven’t Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur always been no-class days at UB?
No. From the time of its founding in 1846 until 1975, UB held
classes on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Former President Robert
Ketter decreed in 1977 that classes would no longer be held on
those days, and this has been the case for the past 39 years.
There has been much public discussion of this policy among
faculty members, staff and students since the practice was
established, with many arguments for and against the practice being
What if students of any faith want to participate in a religious observance on a day on which classes are scheduled?
Both university policy and New York State law require that
students, staff and faculty who are absent to observe religious
holy days can do so with no negative consequences. UB recognizes
and values the significant role of religion and faith in the lives
of students, faculty and staff, and will ensure that no members of
the university community are compelled to work, teach or attend
classes in a way that impacts their ability to practice their
Under Federal and New York State law, reasonable accommodation
must be made for any student who is unable to attend a regularly
scheduled class or exam because of religious observance.
Reasonable religious accommodations in the workplace also must be
made for all employees.
Any student absence for religious observance will be viewed as
an “excused absence,” with no negative
consequence. If the exact coursework missed cannot be
completed at a later time, for whatever reason, students will be
offered a similar make-up assignment. Students cannot be assigned
extra work above and beyond normal course requirements because of
an absence due to a religious holiday. UB policy states that
students are responsible for informing instructors or employers
when they will be absent for religious holidays. If an instructor
cancels class for religious reasons, he or she should schedule a
What should students do if they are denied such accommodation?
Resources are available to all members of the university
community should they believe that they are not being accommodated
fairly. If students encounter difficulty with regard to
reasonable accommodation regarding classes or assignments, they
should contact the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic
Affairs. Faculty and staff should contact the Office of
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.