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Requesting Religious Accommodations

American University will make good faith efforts to provide reasonable religious accommodations to students whose sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with a university policy, procedure, or other academic requirement unless such an accommodation would create an undue hardship.  Requests should be made as early as possible to allow sufficient time to engage in an interactive process.  

Please note: To receive a religious accommodation, the religious observance must be one required by one's religious tradition.  The policy guarantees that you are not unduly prevented from observing your religious practice; it does not necessarily guarantee the observance of that practice at a particular time or in a particular location (e.g. if there are additional services at other times, or services offered on campus versus at a home congregation). 

Accommodation Requests

In most cases, students should seek to make arrangements with the appropriate University office first, contacting professors, residential life, or dining services. If that effort fails or if the particular University office has questions, students may submit an online request for reasonable religious accommodations. Ths request should include relevant information such as:

  • a description of the accommodation you are requesting;
  • the reason you need an accommodation; and
  • how the accommodation will help resolve the conflict between your religious beliefs or practices and a university policy, procedure, or other academic requirement.

Once a request is submitted, the University Chaplain will initiate an interactive process to determine if the request can be accommodated as requested and, if not, what, if any, alternative arrangements can be made. The University may request the student provide information to support the need for an accommodation based on the student's sincerely held religious belief. The University Chaplain will also consult with others related to the student's request.

Reasonable religious accommodation requests will be made on a case‐by‐case basis taking into account factors including but not limited to: nature of the accommodation requested; duration of the request; timeliness of the request; alternative accommodations; financial impact; academic impact; and other related factors.

Particular considerations for different accommodation types include:

Housing

A request for a religious accommodation for housing must be made before housing is requested. For incoming students, a request must be made at the earliest possible opportunity after admission. A request for a religious accommodation for housing must document:

  • a description of the accommodation you are requesting;
  • the reason you need an accommodation; and
  • how the accommodation will help resolve the conflict between your religious beliefs or practices and a university policy, procedure, or other requirement.

Dining

A request for a religious accommodation for dining must be made at the earliest possible opportunity after admission. A request for a religious accommodation for dining must document:

  • description of the accommodation you are requesting;
  • the reason you need an accommodation; and
  • how the accommodation will help resolve the conflict between your religious beliefs or practices and a university policy, procedure, or other requirement.

Medical

As with housing and dining accommodations, medical accommodations should be made at the earliest possible opportunity after admission.

Immunizations

For religious exemptions to immunization requirements, students should submit along with their requests:

  • A written letter to the chief official of the school, President Sylvia Burwell, that states the immunization would violate their religious belief as required by DC Code Section 38-506.
  • A letter from a religious leader of the faith community to which the student is a member stating the need for an exemption. If the student does not belong to a religious community that could provide this letter, the student should indicate this in their letter and request a letter from the University Chaplain after due consultation with the University Chaplain.

Please email your request, your letter to President Burwell, and a letter from a leader of your faith community (or a request for consultation with the University Chaplain) to president@american.edu.

Upon approval of a request for a religious exemption to immunization, the student may be asked to sign a release acknowledging that in the event of an outbreak, the student may face particular restrictions regarding classes, housing, or other activities.

Academics

For Academic accommodations requests, students should seek to make arrangements with the appropriate professors first at the earliest opportunity. The Office of the University Chaplain has communicated to the faculty via the Provost’s office a list of major religious holy days.  Students are required to check their course syllabi at the beginning of the semester, make any conflicts with religious/cultural observances known to their professors, and discuss arrangements for missed classes or assignments. Requests for accommodation should be made at the earliest opportunity once a student has become aware that a conflict exists. If students are sabbath-observant, they must make this fact known to their professors for any course in which Saturday work is required. Contact the University Chaplain’s Office only if there is a conflict in making the accommodations for a religious/cultural observance.