Guidelines and Policies

A number of formal guidelines, policies and procedures govern and support the University community as relates to religion and spirituality. Posted below are three primary sets of guidelines which address: behavioral expectations for religious and spiritual groups, leaders and activities on campus; the academic policy concerning student absence due to religious observance; and how to identify and report a bias incident or hate crime.

Guidelines for religious/spiritual groups, leaders, and activities at Northeastern:

The Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service at Northeastern University works to support a collaborative environment of positive religious/spiritual engagement, pluralism and respect. The Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Servicestrives to serve, support, nurture and celebrate the religious and spiritual well-being of all within this University community. Towards this end, the following guidelines have been established to help ensure a healthy environment where each person’s faith can be practiced and expressed freely and with integrity, while at the same time the practices and expressions of some do not infringe upon the rights of others:

Support of religious groups, programs and leaders:
Northeastern University promotes a thriving atmosphere of religious and spiritual life on campus. Recognized student religious and spiritual groups benefit from the support, assistance and use of facilities offered through the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service and the Student Activities Office (SAO).

Student religious groups and their leaders are invited and encouraged to work with the Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, as well as to use the Sacred Space, Reflection Room, Blue Room, and various Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service study/worship resources. The Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service also centralizes information on all student religious groups, for distribution to new students etc, and groups are encouraged to keep the Center updated for inclusion in such publicity.

Student religious groups and their leaders are also invited and encouraged to work with the Multi-Faith Student Connection, a student group that centralizes interfaith dialogue, volunteer action and cooperative programs among the various religious groups on campus.

Finally, student religious groups are invited and encouraged to seek University recognition in order to enjoy the use of many additional NU facilities, funds and resources.

Authorization of religious groups, programs and leaders
All student groups engaged in religious/spiritually-based activities on campus must be endorsed by the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, and are thereby accountable to Northeastern University. New groups seek the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service endorsement by a student leader meeting with the Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service. With the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service endorsement, the group may then also apply for University recognition through the Student Activities Office. Groups lacking such endorsement are not permitted to use the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service facilities and resources, or to seek University recognition.

Existing student religious groups must renew their Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service endorsement each September, by a student leader meeting with the Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service. With the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service endorsement, the group may then also apply for renewed University recognition through the Student Activities Office.

Non-student leaders of student religious groups must be endorsed by the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service in order to work on campus. Such leaders are to meet with the Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service upon appointment to the NU campus, and at least annually thereafter.

Non-student groups and individuals who are engaged in religious outreach to students on campus must be endorsed by the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service and are thereby accountable to NU.

Purpose of campus religious activity
Religious activity at Northeastern University is to be aimed at meeting the needs and benefiting the spiritual lives of the NU community. Religious groups and ministries whose purpose is primarily to draw members into non-NU-based groups and local congregations, are not to conduct ministry work on campus. Likewise, groups and ministries that do not involve significant initiative and leadership from within the NU community are not to conduct ministry work on campus.

Behavior of religious groups
Proselytizing/witness/ministry that negatively impacts students or other members of the Northeastern University community will not be allowed. Such behavior may include, but is not limited to:

  • harassment or coercion of any type
  • pressure that takes advantage of unequal power dynamics (in age, language, etc.)
  • entering residences uninvited by the person to whom one is speaking
  • frequent or after-hours phone calls, e-mails, text messages, Facebook 

        communcations, tweets or IM’s that are unsolicited

  • approaching individuals who have not themselves initiated contact
  • continuing contact after an individual has said “no”
  • collecting money, except when authorized by the CSDS or SAO for an approved activity
  • physical, mental or emotional abuse
  • unduly excluding or isolating the group, or certain members of the group
  • clusters of behaviors commonly held to be indicative of cults or destructive religions
  • targeting people of another faith to convince them to leave that faith
  • manipulation, deceit or untruthfulness

Religious groups must practice truth in advertising. All literature, spoken and cyber communications, and events must clearly and accurately identify the religious nature of the event, all sponsoring groups, and the intent of the event. Additionally, events may not function under a “bait-and-switch” approach, namely promising one type of event or sponsor and actually offering another.

No group may purposely misrepresent or denigrate another faith by verbal statements, or by distributing denigrating literature. Hate language is likewise unacceptable. Although disagreement among faiths is to be expected, such disagreement is to be communicated in an accurate, constructive, and respectful fashion.

Although certain religions have a conversionary imperative, it is expected that one’s implicit witness to one’s faith (through personal example, literature, educational programs) will be the valid means of fulfilling this imperative. Conversionary techniques that transgress the guidelines in this document are not permitted.

Sanctions for violations
Religious groups acting in violation of any of the above guidelines will be subject to possible group probationary status or withdrawal of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service endorsement and University recognition.

Religious groups acting in violation of any standing University policies and regulations, or in violation of any laws, will be liable for possible judicial or legal action, as well as subject to group probationary status or withdrawal of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service endorsement and NU recognition.

Policies concerning absence due to religious observance:

Reflecting NU's respect for religious observance, university policies on absence for observance of religious Holy Days are as follows:

Students: "Any student who is unable, because of his/her religious beliefs, to attend classes or to particpate in any examination, study, or work requirement shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study, or work requirement that he/she may have missed because of such absence on any particular day; provided, however, that such make-up examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of availing himself/herself of the provisions of this section (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 151C, Section 2B, 1985)." If there are any questions, please contact the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies (617-373-2842)

Benefits-eligible employees: "Northeastern respects the religious beliefs of faculty and staff and their desire to observe their accepted religious customs and holy days. The University allows reasonable time off without adjustment to pay to attend religious observances on generally recognized holy days, provided this does not disrupt academic schedules or administrative responsibilities." Questions may be directed to the office of Human Resources, or to Alexander Levering Kern, the Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service (617-373-2728).

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes:

Northeastern University values diversity, inclusion and social justice. The University is committed to providing a safe, respectful educational and work environment that is free of harassment, intimidation, and physical and emotional harm.

A bias incident is any conduct, speech, or expression that demeans, degrades, or harasses an individual or group based upon membership in a protected category as recognized by law or Northeastern University policy including race, color, religion, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, veteran or disability status. A hate crime is criminal conduct motivated by hatred, bias, or prejudice, based on actual or perceived protected class status as defined by relevant state and federal laws including race, color, religion, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, veteran or disability status.

For more information, or to report a bias incident, please notify the NU Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity at 617-373-2133. The full Bias Incident Response Policies and Procedures may be found at www.northeastern.edu/diversity/policies.html