A new attendance policy approved by the faculty senate will introduce a new rule for unexcused absences while prohibiting professors from using grade penalties for excused absences.
The policy will go into effect for the 2021-2022 school year, Mark Cooper, the chairman of the ad hoc committee on attendance, said in an email interview.
The new policy institutes a 5% rule, allowing students to miss 5% of class time for unexcused absences. Under the current policy, students can miss 10% of class time, but there is no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.
In a traditional three-credit in-person course, the 5% rule would allow one absence in a 75-minute course that meets twice a week and two in a 50-minute course that meets three times per week.
There are some exceptions to this policy. Labs and clinicals will be allowed to set the bar lower than 5%. Online courses will be allowed to set their own unexcused absence policy.
According to the new policy, instructors must grant students excused absences without a grade penalty. Students must also be allowed to make up work from excused absences, unless that work “would result in a fundamental alteration of the essential academic requirements of the course.”
Excused absences include severe illness and the passing of an immediate family member, both with supporting documents.
Religious holidays and participation in university activities, such as varsity sports, are included in the excused absences category if students give their professors written notice of the anticipated absence within the first two weeks of classes.
For unanticipated absences, such as illness, students must notify the instructor as soon as they realize they have to miss class.
The approved policy was one of multiple possible options. Cooper said he heard two main reasons this particular version of the policy was approved.
"First, some faculty felt it would help them to manage attendance. They felt that a universally understood grace period would be better than addressing all student excuses on an individual basis. Second, Patrick Greene, the student representative on the ad hoc attendance policy committee, made a compelling case that students need some flexibility to deal with the vicissitudes of life," Cooper said.