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CUNY Chancellor reminds students of religious accommodations 

Eliana Hernandez

Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez of CUNY issued a letter to all CUNY students, faculty and staff concerning CUNY’s policy on religious accommodations.

Matos Rodríguez wrote, “CUNY is committed to providing reasonable accommodations that allow every member of our community to observe their religious practices without compromising their academic or work progress. We are here to support you in every way possible. As the new fall semester has begun, the institution reminds students and faculty of the policy and mentions upcoming religious holidays in the semester.”

In his letter, the chancellor brings attention to CUNY’s religious accommodations policy and the New York Education Law 224-A. 

Both give students the right to request religious accommodations for any scheduled academic activities that may conflict with their religious observances. 

Along with the letter, the chancellor and other students have also issued a PSA on religious accommodations. 

Religious accommodations are essential for students who observe religious holidays during the academic year. When provided with these accommodations, students can feel more supported by their college and its staff. 

To request a religious accommodation, students can speak directly to their professors or contact  the Office of Student Life. The law and CUNY policy requires professors to honor their students’ requests. 

Faculty and staff can also request religious accommodations under CUNY’s policy. To do so, faculty and staff can contact their college or unit’s Office of Human Resources. 

CUNY has updated its religious and ethnic holiday calendar to include a plethora of holidays from different religious and ethnic groups. This calendar was curated by the CUNY Interfaith Council, which promotes and enhances CUNY’s mission of educating the whole person.

CUNY’s religious accommodations policy has been in effect since at least 2021, but it has never issued a PSA to students about it in the past. 

The chancellor’s address mentions the New York Education Law, section 224-A. This law protects students’ right to equal opportunity in higher education institutions. 

As a result, students are excused from any exams or work they missed, special fees and adverse or prejudicial effects for such accommodations. They are also given the opportunity to register for classes or make up any exams or work they may have missed.

The institution’s reminder of its religious accommodations policy comes after last year’s lawsuit against CUNY by the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ. The ACLJ argued that “The clear message that CUNY is communicating is that the administration is deliberately indifferent to the concerns and wellbeing of its Jewish population.”

The lawsuit describes several instances and anecdotes, ranging from 2013 to the present, of Jewish students and professors who’ve experienced antisemitism within CUNY campuses.

One of the noted instances was when professors at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work did not honor accommodation requests for assignments that interfered with Shabbat observance, as per the CUNY religious accommodations policy.

These accusations led New York City Council officials to pull $50,000 in funding from CUNY schools. The ACLJ’s main goal is to hold CUNY accountable for its actions and inactions regarding the environment of antisemitism within its campuses. 


“In our complaint, we asked that the Department of Education intervene and make sure that the University either corrects its ways or immediately loses all its funding.”

The ACLJ’s complaint singled out Matos Rodríguez in particular. “A hearing was originally scheduled for June 8, 2022, but was postponed when at the last minute, CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez canceled his appearance, citing a scheduling conflict but noting that he did want to attend. The hearing was delayed until June 30 to accommodate him; but the night before the rescheduled hearing, the Chancellor again backed out.” 

Matos Rodríguez decided to issue thisPSA to fight against the accusations mentioned in the ACLJ’s complaint. 

In addition to this, the chancellor addressed students and staff in his letter personally. All CUNY schools should continue to be inclusive and diverse by supporting all religious groups.

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Sonia Kalo
Sonia Kalo, News Editor
Sonia Kalo is the News Editor of The Ticker
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