University Invokes Religious Exemption Rules for Easter

Caitlin Holbrook

Every once in a blue moon, Easter happens to coincide with Colgate’s spring break. This year, Colgate was faced with one such instance, as Easter fell on March 23 — the second earliest day Easter can fall — and the last Sunday of spring break. The University, therefore, had to strike a balance between upholding the policy denoted in the Colgate handbook, which stipulates that exams and papers should not be scheduled on this holiday or on the class falling after the holiday, and resuming a normal schedule on the Monday after break.

Due to the vast amount of members of the Colgate campus who observe Easter, some students and faculty were naturally upset that this year’s highly unusual schedule meant that many of them would have to travel on Easter Sunday in order to be back on campus for classes, and possibly midterms on the following Monday. The Office of the Chaplains accordingly discussed the matter with the administration and received their approval to send out an email to all faculty and students encouraging professors to be understanding of the situation.

University Chaplain & Catholic Campus Minister Mark Shiner set some guidelines in his email for both students and faculty about how to handle the matter.

“Monday and Tuesday, March 24th and 25th should not be used either as exam dates or due dates for papers,” Shiner wrote. “Students who are planning to celebrate Easter with their families should communicate with their professors in advance if they expect to have to miss class on Monday, the 24th. Faculty are requested to consider excusing absences of students whose observance requires travel back to Colgate on March 24th.”

This response was deemed reasonable based on the instructions regarding religious holidays addressed in the Student Handbook.

“It is reasonable to consider major religious holidays for the Colgate student body as a whole to the following:Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Good Friday, and Easter,” the Student Handbook reads. “Quizzes or exams should not be scheduled and papers in courses should not be due on any of these holidays or on the next class session falling after any of these holidays. In addition, every effort will be made not to schedule major University events on these days.”

As a result of the schedule, some professors were forced to reschedule exams and postpone the due dates of papers originally due on Monday. A few classes normally held on Monday were even canceled due to low student attendance.

Fortunately, Colgate won’t have to deal with this unusual coincidence of spring break and Easter again anytime soon, as Easter only falls this early once or twice about every hundred years.