Polices on Religious Observance or Practice

Class Absence | Housing | Dining | Athletics/Sports

As part of our commitment to the success and wellbeing of every student on our diverse campus, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has implemented various policies to accommodate religious observance or practice.

For students seeking accommodations for their religious or spiritual practices or observances, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life has collected this list of relevant policies and procedures from across the university. For questions about specific policies, please contact the relevant office listed in each section below. If you would like assistance in navigating this process, please contact the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Information on this page is current as of September 2023.

Class Absence

University policy ensures that no student will be penalized as a result of religious observance, but does require advance notification. The university policy on class absences due to religious observance is published in Academic Regulations by the Office of the Provost, and compiled by the Office of the Registrar.

Please see the Office of the Registrar for the most up-to-date version of the policy. For convenience, the policy as of September 2023 is included below:

Absences Due to Religious Observance

The University of Massachusetts Amherst requires that the university excuse any student who is unable to attend classes or participate in any examination, study, or work requirement because of religious observance, as noted:

Chapter 151C of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Law states:

“Any student in an educational or vocational training institution, other than a religious or denominational educational or vocational training institution, who is unable, because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study, or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on any particular day; provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section.”

Instructors must accept a student’s assertion of the need to be absent from class for religious reasons, but students are required to notify instructors in advance that they will miss class in order to observe a religious holiday. University policy and Massachusetts state law require faculty to offer make-up assignments or exams to students who are absent for religious observance.

Students planning to be absent from classes due to religious observance must notify their instructors in writing as early in the semester as possible, but no later than one week in advance of the absence with the exception of holidays falling during the first week of the academic year. In the event of a dispute between a student and a faculty member, either party should contact the department head or the Ombuds Office at (413) 545-0867.

If you would like help figuring out how to talk to your professor about a class absence due to a religious observance, or if you've tried unsuccessfully to talk with your professor about a conflict and need help, you can call the Ombuds Office, the department head, or contact the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life (orsl@umass.edu) for assistance. If you do not know your instructor’s email address, you can search for it in the university directory, People Finder.


Residential Life has various procedures related to the selection of roommates and specific housing practices, including shomer Shabbos accommodations. The university maintains a policy regulating the burning of candles or offerings for religious or cultural reasons which also applies in all university residential areas.

Please see Residential Life for the most up-to-date versions of the policies listed below. For convenience, relevant policies as of September 2023 are included below:

Roommate Selection

New students may make specific roommate requests and Residential Life does their best to assign students together as long as the request is mutual and there is space available for the assignment. All students, even those with a roommate request, will need to complete the five-question Housing Profile. Roommate requests are not guaranteed.

See Requesting Your Roommate for instructions on how to submit a request.

Alcohol-Free Residence Hall

Brooks Hall in Central is an alcohol-free residence hall. Students and their guests may not possess or consume alcoholic beverages in this residence hall. The commitment of all residents to maintain an alcohol-free environment forms the basis of a respectful and encouraging community.

See Special Housing Options for more information.

Single-Gender Housing

Single-gender floors are available for first-year students in Central and Southwest. Single-gender apartments and suites are available for returning students in North, Sylvan, and the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community.

See Special Housing Options for more information.

Shabbat-Friendly Housing

To accommodate Jewish students who do not use electronic devices on the Sabbath based on their religious belief and current practice, Residential Life permits students to request a physical metal key to access the main door of their assigned residence hall. For North Apartments and suites/apartments in the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community, a second physical metal key is provided to allow access to the student’s assigned suite/apartment door.

Given that Residential Life utilizes an electronic computer based sign in process for security into the building, the student will only need to state to the Security Staff Member that they are on the approved list for the Sabbath. Residence Hall Security will confirm the student’s ID number to ensure they live in the cluster. Students will not be required to “sign” into the building.

For students who reside in apartments or suites in CHCRC or North, there are various light switches that may be motion controlled. Students who observe the Sabbath may request that these motion detectors to be temporarily disabled. This request should happen when the initial request for the Sabbath key is made. All requests should happen at least ten (10) business days prior to taking residence.

See Residential Life Shabbat Accommodations for instructions on how to submit a request.

Related to the above Sabbath policy, UMass Hillel has constructed an eruv that covers the UMass Amherst campus, as well as the town of Amherst and Amherst College. Please see UMass Hillel for questions about the eruv.

Additionally, the university maintains a policy on burning materials for cultural or religious observance, which applies to all areas of the campus, including university housing.

Burning of Material Offerings Policy

The purpose of this policy is to ensure the burning of ceremonial cultural material offerings is done in the safest possible manner, with little or no impact to other building occupants and in compliance with applicable policies and standards. This policy also provides further guidance for the cultural and religious use exception in the campus Tobacco policy. Members of the university community who want to engage in the burning of ceremonial cultural material offerings should review this procedure prior to activity. The procedure ensures that both the safety of the campus community and the cultural integrity of the ceremony is maintained.

See the Burning of Material Offerings Policy and the Burning of Material Offerings Procedure for additional information.


UMass Dining offers options for various religious dietary restrictions, including Halal, Kosher, vegetarian, and strict vegan options. Halal dining is available at multiple locations, indicated by the Halal icon. Kosher dining is available only in Franklin Dining Commons. Vegetarian and Plant-Based (vegan) dining is available in multiple locations, with a special vegan station located in Franklin Dining Commons. This information is accurate as of September 2023.

See UMass Dining Special Dietary Needs for additional information.


For students who participate in intramural sports, the Campus Recreation Participant’s Guide has information for those seeking accommodations for religious jewelry or headwear during intramural activities.

Please see Campus Recreation for the most up-to-date version of the policy. For convenience, the policy as of September 2023 is included below:

Should an individual wish to request to wear jewelry or prohibited headwear during intramural activities that is religious in nature, a meeting must be scheduled with intramural sports professional staff prior to the date of the scheduled contest to ensure safety concerns can be met. No exceptions will be made at the game site for safety reasons.

UMass Athletics currently follows all NCAA policies and guidelines on religious accommodations. Please speak with Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Experience or contact your sports administrator for more information.


If you have any questions about these accommodations, or have a request not covered on this page, please contact the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life at orsl@umass.edu.

This page was last updated September 2023.