The University of South Dakota might soon recognize more religious holidays and funerals as excused absences under a new attendance policy.
Currently, the university’s policy asks students to notify professors two days prior to missing class for university-related absences.
Gerald Yutrzenka, co-chair President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusiveness, said the council has introduced a resolution to the University Senate that would allow students to be excused for absences related to religious practice.
“It will be a policy statement,” Yutrzenka said.
The proposed policy would function similarily to absence policies, excusing students with documentation and notification for professors.
“We basically came up with a recommendation from the President’s task force on diversity and inclusive excellence,” Dan Van Peursem, chair of the University Senate, said. “The senate was going to look into it, and we formed a subcommittee. It was basically on expanding the excused absence policy the university has currently for university-sponsored events.”
Van Peursem said the subcommittee — made up of students and faculty — is looking to expand the recommendation to include religious and spiritual holidays as well as funerals.
“We recognize there’s a lot of different holidays with the different religions,” he said. “Trying to be a little bit more sensitive to making sure (students) have opportunities to practice their beliefs.”
Senior Komal Shah is a practicing Muslim and member of multiple diversity student organizations. She said adding religious holidays to the academic calendar would be an excellent way for students to teach one another about different cultures.
“As a Muslim student here, I would love to be able to share my religious holidays with my peers,” Shah said.
The university senate subcommittee formed the policy that went through the President’s task force and arrived at the University Senate meeting this month, Van Peursem said.
“We approved it, brought it up to the Senate this past meeting in February and had a couple discussions on it,” Van Peursem said. “It was tabled basically until March. People wanted to go back to their departments and talk to their constituents about it.”
The University Senate will bring it to a vote in March, Van Peursem said. If the policy passes through the Senate as well as the policy committee, it must be approved by Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jim Moran.
As for how long the process will take, Van Peursem said he doesn’t have an estimate.
“I’m thinking it would probably go into effect in the fall,” he said.