Respecting Religious Journeys, Fostering Inclusivity: Our commitment to religious accommodations reflects our dedication to nurturing the spiritual growth and well-being of members of our community
Frequently Asked Questions
At USC, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive environment where all students and employees can freely practice their religion. We understand the importance of religious accommodation and strive to provide the necessary information and guidance to support individuals in their requests.
In this section, we have gathered answers to frequently asked questions about religious accommodation to provide our community members with the necessary information. If you can’t find the question you’re seeking, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Together, we can foster an environment that encourages mutual understanding, respect, and inclusivity for everyone at USC.
ABOUT RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATIONS
A religious accommodation is an adjustment made to a policy, practice, or environment to allow an individual to practice/observe their religion.
Like all colleges and universities, USC is required by federal law to make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, which could include accommodations for religious holidays, dietary restrictions, and prayer.
While USC is required to make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, accommodations that would cause an undue burden or fundamentally alter the nature of a program or activity may be denied.
No, neither students nor employees may be penalized for requesting religious accommodation
The university does not require proof or certification regarding religious beliefs. However, we will ask you to provide information about your beliefs that require the accommodation so we can better understand the nature and scope of the request and better support your needs.
We understand that each religious accommodation request is unique and requires careful consideration. As such, we evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific religious belief, the impact of the accommodation on the university, and any available alternatives. Our goal is to work collaboratively with students and employees to identify accommodations that support their religious beliefs while also aligning with the mission of the university.
No, religious accommodations are only available to students or employees who have a sincerely held religious belief that requires an accommodation.
REQUESTING A RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION
To request a religious accommodation, complete the Request for Religious Accommodation Form and share it with the individual or office specified on the form.
It’s best to request religious accommodation as soon as possible to allow adequate time for the university to make necessary arrangements. For students, we recommend requesting accommodation from your professor at the beginning of the semester. For employees, university policy requires giving managers at least 30 days notice prior to the holiday. For everyone, the sooner the better!
A request not made in advance may constitute an undue hardship and an accommodation might not be granted. For students, advance notice of at least two weeks provides the professor the opportunity to ensure learning objectives can be maintained. For employees, advance notice of at least 30 days provides the supervisor the opportunity to ensure business operations can be maintained.
Individuals may request any reasonable accommodation necessary to allow them to practice their religion. However, accommodations that would cause an undue burden or fundamentally alter the nature of a program or activity may be denied.
Religious accommodations are determined on an individual basis and often depend on the circumstances. Common academic accommodations include flexible assignment deadlines, rescheduled exams, make-up exams, alternative dates for assignments or presentations, and prayer breaks during class.
If a religious accommodation conflicts with the academic requirements of a program, the university will work with the student to find an alternative solution that meets the student’s religious needs while still meeting the requirements of the program.
Yes, faculty members may be required to accommodate reasonable requests for religious accommodations, such as rescheduling an exam or allowing a student to observe a religious holiday.
Yes, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) is happy to make things easier for faculty members. For instance, should an exam need rescheduling to accommodate religious observances, ORSL is available to step in as an alternative proctor.
No, a student’s grades may not be affected by taking religious accommodation. Faculty members are required to make reasonable accommodations for students’ religious practices without penalizing the student.
The number of classes a student may miss for religious accommodation varies based on individual circumstances. Communicate with your professor as soon as possible to establish a plan.
We recommend reviewing your course syllabi at the start of each semester to identify any conflicts with your religious observances, then fill out the Religious Accommodation Request Form and reach out to your faculty member as soon as possible to make arrangements.
Though this policy seems fair, it may inadvertently disadvantage religious observant students. Ideally, exams should avoid major religious holidays. If unavoidable, offering an alternate exam date for those affected ensures equal grading opportunities.
Employees at USC may need to use paid personal time for religious holidays not covered by the Paid Personal Holiday Policy. This policy grants full-time employees one day of personal holiday time each calendar year, which can be used for non-designated religious purposes. When taking time off for religious holidays not covered by the policy, employees may use vacation time or choose time off without pay. These options provide flexibility for employees to honor their religious observances while considering their work commitments.
Generally, an employee may display religious symbols, text, decorations, or materials in their work area as long as they do not interfere with workplace operations, create a safety hazard, or impose on the rights of others. An employee whose workspace is in public-facing areas of the University (such as a receptionist, for example) may be more restricted in what religious symbols, text, decoration, or materials may be able to be displayed in such work areas, consistent with departmental needs.
Generally, employees may pray openly and use religious greetings if these actions do not impose on the rights of others, require others to participate in the religious prayer or activity, or interfere with academic or workplace duties.
Yes, with relevant approvals and by following established procedures for engaging in extracurricular groups, such as room reservations and space usage. For employees, such study may occur during breaks and during non-work time.
HANDLING CHALLENGES AND CONFLICTS
The university policy for religious observance covers students for holy days that last up to two days. For longer periods of observances, students should contact the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life for advice and support.
USC strives to accommodate all reasonable religious accommodation requests from students but may need to balance competing interests and constraints. In cases of conflict, USC will work with those involved to find a reasonable solution that respects all parties’ religious beliefs.
The university is committed to respecting and accommodating the religious practices of all students. The university may provide a range of accommodations to ensure that the needs of different religious groups are met.
If you believe your religious rights have been violated, you can seek assistance from the Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX. They are dedicated to addressing such matters and can offer students with valuable guidance on how to proceed. Moreover, the Office of the Ombuds and WorkWell Center provide employees with a confidential environment where they can freely express their concerns.
If a religious accommodation conflicts with a university policy, the university will work with the student or employee to find an alternative solution that respects religious beliefs while still meeting the university’s needs.
CULTURAL AND RITUAL ACCOMMODATIONS
Yes. USC understands the importance of accommodating religious attire and symbols. Although some departments may have specific dress requirements for safety or specialized activities, we uphold an environment that respects religious practice. Faculty are urged to accommodate students’ needs for religious clothing, head coverings, or items like prayer rugs in class.
Yes. Students who carry or wear Kirpans in residence halls should contact the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life for accommodation.
Yes. At USC, we understand that Indigenous students may require accommodations related to the burning of sage and provide designated areas on campus where Indigenous students can safely burn sage. We also offer guidance on the cultural significance of sage and proper burning techniques.
FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS AND PENALTIES
No. Like other universities, USC may not charge students or employees for reasonable religious accommodations.
If a religious accommodation would cause an undue financial burden on USC, the university will work with the student to find a reasonable solution that meets the student’s religious needs while minimizing the financial impact to the institution.