UB’s Academic Calendar and the Jewish Holidays

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated August 30, 2013

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 session.

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 campuses.

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 Biomedical Sciences.

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 publicly debated.

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 faith.

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 make-up session.

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.