UMass Amherst Religious and Spiritual Life

Religious and Spiritual Life at UMass Amherst
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Class absences or cancellations due to a major religious holiday during the first week of classes in Fall 2013

Information for students, parents, and faculty regarding the calendar conflict between Rosh Hashanah and the first week of classes

This year, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, coincides with the first week of classes. This Jewish "High Holiday" begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 4 (the second day of classes) and ends Friday evening, September 6, 2013.

University policy ensures that no student will be penalized as a result of religious observance, but requires advance notification. So if you'll be going home to celebrate with your family, or participating in religious activities on campus, you should do your best to notify your instructors at least a week in advance, by email, to let them know you'll be missing class.

Hillel and Chabad will offer a variety of High Holiday meals and services (including traditional and modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform-Reconstructionist). For a complete schedule of Hillel's High Holiday services and meals, click here or call 413-549-1710 for more information.

Since it's the first week of classes, we recognize that it will be difficult for some students to notify their instructors in advance. The Provost and the Faculty Senate have asked faculty members to be understanding, and to do everything possible to ensure that no student is penalized as a result of their holiday observance.

In addition to the classes for which students are already registered, any student on a waiting list for an oversubscribed class should send an email to the instructor to let them know they want to be kept on the waiting list (even though you may not be able to attend class the first week).

It's also possible that Jewish faculty members who are observing the holiday may be absent for the first class meeting, in which case their classes may be cancelled if no alternative arrangement can be made.

How do I find my instructor's email address?
You can find the email addresses for your instructors on the University's online directory ("PeopleFinder").

Who can I contact for assistance if I encounter any problems?
Contact the Ombuds Office, the department head, the Dean of Students Office, or the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life for assistance.

Ombuds Office... call 413-545-0867 or email

Office of Religious and Spiritual Life... call 413-545-9642 or email

OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS pertaining to this calendar conflict:

Faculty Senate Document #13-047 regarding Fall 2013 conflict with Rosh Hashanah ("A Day of Religious Observance During the First Week of Classes")

On April 18, 2013, the Faculty Senate adopted Senate Document #13-047, which reads in part: "In 2013, Rosh Hashanah will begin on the day after the first day of class of the Fall semester... Under the circumstances, instructors should be flexible about the one-week notice requirement and cautious about dropping students for non-attendance during the first week of classes. Students observing Rosh Hashanah should notify their instructors a week in advance if possible, and certainly no later than Tuesday, September 3..."

The full Faculty Senate document can be downloaded using the following link:

Faculty Senate Document #13-047

Letter to faculty from Vice Provost of Undergraduate and Continuing Education Carol Barr (May 13, 2013)

"Dear Colleagues:
      "I am writing to alert you to a rare procedural aspect of the Fall 2013 semester. It involves the first several days of classes and a major religious observance for many in our community.
      "Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday evening, Sept 4th and ends Friday evening, Sept 6th. Many Jewish students will go home for the holiday, leaving campus as early as Wednesday afternoon to get home in time for the festive dinner before evening synagogue services. Others will attend Hillel's services on campus. Consequently many Jewish students will miss the first and, perhaps, second meetings of classes on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and/or Friday.
      "I want to be sure that all faculty members are aware of this conflict, and to understand that University policy (and state law) require that no student should be penalized on account of a religious observance. I'm confident that you would not want such an outcome even absent policy or law.
      "The campus attendance policy requires students to provide their instructors with one week's advance notice although that will not be easily accomplished for many students as they will be in the midst of a busy beginning to the Fall semester. In addition, our incoming first year students may not be aware of our attendance policy although we will be communicating with them over the summer. Numerous offices on campus will be instructing observant students who know their schedules to email or otherwise try to contact the instructor of record over the summer.
      "Under the circumstances, instructors should be flexible about the one-week notice requirement under the attendance policy and cautious about dropping students from your course or waitlist for non-attendance during the first week of classes. In addition, any accommodation you can provide to these students who will miss class due to this religious observance will be greatly appreciated.
      "Thank you in advance for your attention to this most unusual scheduling circumstance, and best wishes for an excellent and productive summer.
      -Carol A. Barr, PhD, Vice Provost of Undergraduate and Continuing Education"

For more information...
contact Larry Goldbaum in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
by email or phone 413-545-9642.