Religious calendar allows students to celebrate holidays without class conflicts

WSU Interfaith Group created calendar because of Washington state senate bill



Students who want religious accommodations must contact their instructors in the first two weeks of the semester.


WSU offers students a religious calendar so they can receive accommodations, such as moving an exam or an assignment due date, when classes conflict with their religious holidays.

Professors are expected to work with their students if there is a conflict, said Katie Forsythe, director of the WSU Transformational Change Initiative. The calendar is a resource professors can refer to.

“If there’s an essay due on a religious holiday, but the student had two weeks to work on the essay, the faculty member might say you can turn it in early,” she said. 

Students who plan to get religious accommodations will need to contact their intructors within the first two weeks of the semester. Emailing professors would be the best method so they can easily keep track of what accommodations they need to meet, she said.

The WSU Interfaith Working Group can add holidays to the calendar if a student points out that it is not completely up to date, Forsythe said. The group will also remove holidays if students let them know that a certain holiday does not require them to miss exams or adjust assignment due dates.

WSU created the calendar for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters after a bill supporting students seeking accommodations when their religious holidays and classes conflict was signed into law in 2019, Forsythe said.

Students and faculty inspired the state to pass the bill, she said. 

People lobbied for the bill after two University of Washington Bothell professors held their exams in the evening so their Muslim students had time to break their fast and regain energy for the exams, according to an article from The World. 

Muslim students at WSU also experienced some issues with their finals as Ramadan usually falls around finals week at WSU. Because Muslim students are fasting during this time, they are mentally and physically drained when taking their final exams, said Allen Sutton, executive director for WSU’s Office of Outreach and Education.

“There’s Muslim students who were fasting, and these students were very hungry and couldn’t really concentrate during the exam period,” Forsythe said.

Faculty worked with the students to accommodate their needs, she said. 

The bill addresses students in a classroom setting, she said. It does not address extracurricular events.

More students have been using WSU’s religious calendar to receive accommodations because of the larger number of international students, Sutton said.

International students may celebrate different holidays. The religious calendar has been helpful in making sure students can celebrate their holidays without being penalized for missing an exam or deadline, he said. 

“We want everyone to feel comfortable on campus and feel like they can bring their full selves,” Sutton said.