Council OKs religious absence

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By Jordan Heath-Rawlings

Ryerson’s academic council voted unanimously last Tuesday to change the school’s policy regarding students who miss classes because of religious holidays.

A committee headed by Keith Alnwick, Ryerson’s registrar, proposed changes that will take away professors’ right to ask absent students for a note from their spiritual leaders. Instead, students will hand in a form at the beginning of the year to declare their faith, giving professors advance warning of any scheduling conflicts.

The new policy will take effect at the beginning of the winter term.

Several members of the council said the old policy was too informal and changes were necessary.

But Michael Doucet, president of the Ryerson Faculty Association was concerned about the clarity of the new policy. He said the proposal didn’t mention what steps would be taken if the professor and student can’t make alternate arrangements on their own.

“So it would go to the chair of the department, and if that fails then to the harassment office,” he said, “but  you don’t clearly spell out who makes the final decision here.”

Doucet suggested the proposal be clarified and reintroduced at the next meeting in November, but no motion to postpone the decision was made.

Alnwick said the proposed changes didn’t affect the existing steps taken if an agreement between a professor and student can’t be reached.

“The real issue of [the policy changes] is that we have to trust our students,” he said.

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