The Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual life works to ensure all students are supported in their spiritual development.
As part of the implementation of Elon University’s new Multifaith Strategic Plan, the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life has re-envisioned the Religious Observance Notification Policy, which provides students a way to be excused from class for the observance of a recognized religious holiday.
“I am grateful Elon doesn’t make me choose between my religious identity and my academic courses,” said Lucy Sneader ‘24. “Knowing that I can request an excused absence to observe the Jewish High Holidays makes all the difference for me.”
One of the main goals of the plan — “make Elon a more equitable and inclusive campus and community” — details a range of initiatives designed to create a campus environment where students, faculty and staff report experiencing belonging, welcome, inclusion, safety and feeling understood at higher levels than they currently do.
University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Rev. Kirstin Boswell, in collaboration with campus partners, updated the wording around the Religious Observance Policy to reflect an equity-minded approach to students’ diverse religious and spiritual traditions.
“Our goal is for our students to be supported in the fullness of their identities while at Elon,” Boswell said. “Revision of the Religious Observance Policy is a step forward to ensuring that our students are supported in their spiritual development.”
The policy, as found in the Faculty Handbook reads: “Absence from class due to observance of a religious holiday is excused according to University policy. Faculty members are encouraged to include this policy on their syllabus, as well as a link to the Religious Observance Notification Form (RONF), which can be accessed on the Truitt Center website.
Students are required to complete the form by Sept. 12, in order to request an excused absence.
The Religious Observance Notification Form, which was first developed in 2016, now permits students to enter the holidays they observe on one form. Further, students with full schedules can request up to four class absences at once.
“Accessibility is key to ensuring equity,” shared Interim Assistant Dean of Multifaith Engagement Hillary Zaken, “In the past, students would have to fill out a separate form for each individual holiday to request an excused absence, and were also limited to a finite number of classes they could enter. We hope the revised policy and new form meets the needs of our increasingly diverse community.”
According to the policy, in addition to filling out the form, students are required to discuss with their instructor when and how any missed assignments will be made up. This approach encourages students to take ownership of their academic obligations while supporting their spiritual growth.
Senior Lucy Sneader agrees: “The Religious Observance Notification form is important because it not only helps make sure you have an approved absence from classes and less stress from missing a class with this approval, but it also helps make students feel accepted and heard no matter what their religion or beliefs. We live in a world where not everyone is accepting; I am just so thankful Elon is.”