Solution to religious exam conflict

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By Allan Woods

A committee set up by academic council last semester to examine religious conflicts during exam time is planning to propose that students declare their faith at the start of classes.

“We’re looking at a process where the student has the ability to notify their instructor at the beginning of the term [about any conflicts],” said Dawn Little, Ryerson’s associate registrar.

Students will be able to download a form off the university’s website, declare their religion, and submit the form to their department.

The committee hopes this process will give faculty enough time to plan exams, tests or assignments around the conflicting dates, or reschedule dates for a student, Little said.

Cases will be dealt with on an individual basis and it is the student’s responsibility to notify their instructor.

“Some students have felt disenfranchised,” she said. “We’re trying to make it easier for them.”

Before the committee was formed, some students urged the university to drop Saturday exams, but Little said that option is not being considered.

The committee hopes to have a policy finalized later this months so they can present it to an academic council meeting in April.

Ann Whiteside, a complaints officer with Ryerson’s discrimination and harassment prevention services, is setting up a calendar on her department’s website that will include the dates and holidays students may be observing.

“Faculty have to be aware so they can be proactive,” Whiteside said.

She came up with the idea for the calendar in November, around the same time as the committee was being created.

She said she has contacted companies who make multi faith calendars and will be using their dates as a guideline.

The only problem will be trying to determine what religions make it onto the calendar.

A survey was distributed several weeks ago by committee member and RyeSAC v.p. education Odelia Bay to determine how religion interfered worth academics, but only 10 responded.

Keith Alnwick, Ryerson’s registrar, said it would be a logistical nightmare if the school tried to run exams between Monday and Friday.

In November, Alnwick hinted another option may be to hold exams on Sunday as well as Saturday, angering the head of Ryerson’s Jewish Students’ Association.

Little said it is unlikely exams would run straight through the weekend because of conflict with unions, but it has not been completely ruled out.

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