FAQ for Religious Accommodations

FAQ for

Are religious holidays covered by a blanket policy for absences and missed work?

Religious accommodations are offered in addition to other policies which the instructor of the subject has for excused absences or dropping the lowest grades. For example, if all students are allowed to drop their three lowest grades, a student would not be expected to use one of these three drops for a quiz or classwork that they missed due to a religious observance. An appropriate accommodation would be to allow the student to make up the missed work after the holiday.

What food should I offer for a diverse group?

If your class, department, or student group is offering food, please consider including options that are kosher (Jewish), halal (Muslim), and vegan (Hindu/Jain). ORSEL chaplains are happy to help connect you to appropriate vendors.

When can groups offer wine?

ORSEL allows religious groups the limited use of ceremonial wine. Events qualify as exempt (and therefore do not need to be registered as having alcohol) if an ORSEL-affiliated chaplain or chaplaincy staff member will be present, and if the extent of the alcohol use is the traditional sharing of wine within a recognized cultural/religious context. For Christian Communion this includes providing a small serving of wine to each participant. For a Jewish Shabbat or holiday meal, this includes blessing a cup at the beginning of the meal and providing a glass of wine to each person of legal age who is dining. There is no exemption for the use of beer or spirits.

This exemption applies in all Campus Activities Complex (CAC) spaces, and ORSEL encourages other MIT space managers to offer the same consideration to ORSEL-affiliated groups.

How can I make a space welcoming for Muslim prayer?

Requirements in the space for Muslim prayer:

  • Quiet from all participants (Muslim and non-Muslim). For Muslim prayers, this could include quietly praying together at a volume that can be heard by a neighbor; prayers can also be silent.
  • A marker on the wall pointing in the direction of prayer –  this is precisely North East. If facing NE means that they would be looking in the direction of people entering or exiting the space, a room divider would be necessary to block sight lines.

Other considerations:

  • Generic images are acceptable (nature scenes, etc), but must be placed opposite the NE corner, so they are not visible when praying in that direction.
  • No statues, figures, or other religious icons.
  • A clock placed in any orientation is acceptable.
  • Think about where the nearest washroom would be available for wudu (ritual washing before prayer).
  • Schedule: it’s important for the space to be accessible very early and very late, especially when the days are longer in the summer.
  • Shoe storage is nice but not a necessity. 

Useful supplies:

  • Prayer Rugs and storage basket. A sign with a reminder to put them away is helpful. Rugs must always be stored when not in use, so they are not walked or sat on at other times; no chairs may be placed on the rugs; the rugs can be placed on top of a carpet or larger rug.
  • Turbah - Shia stone to put on floor in direction of prayer
  • Thikr beads for meditation/remembrance practice