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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Attendance policy is here to stay, but there are ways to work with it

Alongside each individual professor’s attendance policies, Guilford College has the right to withdraw any students who have missed 20 percent of class time from a class. This is out of what the student handbook refers to as “fairness to other students.”

To put this into perspective: for a course that meets twice a week, six absences — or anything that count towards an absence — is grounds for withdrawal.

“‘Six absences, no excuses’ does not seem to make sense,” said Jeremy Toda-Ambaras, a first-year student negatively affected by this policy. “I feel like mental health is not being regarded as a disease.”

This, however, is just the College’s policy. Professors are free to enforce their own rules for attendance, which are often even stricter. Points deducted from my grade for each absence and fewer than six absences before a failing grade is achieved are just a few I have encountered in my own courses.

These policies would certainly seem to present a problem for students with physical and mental health issues. Such a policy, however, may in fact be necessary at Guilford.

Most often, classes focus on discussion-based learning. As a result, a student’s overall grade in a course is partly based on their participation in class.

“At our institution, we feel that in the classroom so much learning takes place in dialogue, interaction and discussion,” said Barbara Boyette, associate academic dean and First Year Experience interim director. “Classes are not just a lecture where you can get notes from somebody and make up the work.”

This is all well and good. However, disability resources does not — and logistically cannot — offer attendance-based accommodations.

“I think we’re in a position right now where we do not feel like we can dictate the attendance policies for our professors,” said Boyette. “I know students may have certain circumstances, but those need to be worked out with the professor. It is not for the administration to say.”

This means that any attendance issues that a student’s health may cause must be handled by the student themselves.

“We encourage faculty to recognize the need for students to be away from class sometimes: religious observances, weather that might prevent commuting students to get to class, medical emergencies and such,” said Beth Rushing, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean. “Students (must) work with faculty to make up missed work under these circumstances.”

This semester, scheduling with other classes made it so I would not be able to attend the Friday session of my Spanish course each week. My professor, however, was able to make arrangements with me so that I could meet one-on-one to make up for missed class time.

This, of course, would be much harder to do on a case-by-case or as-needed basis, but professors could certainly be more open to working with students — especially those with health issues rather than just a scheduling conflict.

Ultimately, however, the responsibility falls on the student. Fortunately, disability resources can offer students their assistance in this process.

“We look at every case individually, and we do that for all accommodations,” said Georgieann Bogdan, coordinator of disability resources. “We look at the classes the student is taking, what kind of difficulties they may have, how they might be able to overcome those and how we might be able to help.

“We try to provide them with the environment where they are going to be successful, and we, as a department, will liaison between the student and the professors.”

Attendance policies are strict, and they certainly might cause problems for students with mental or physical illnesses that make it so attendance is not possible on some days. The administration may be helping to advise these students, but professors also need to be more willing to make the effort to accommodate these students.

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Harris Billings, Staff Writer

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