Q: Why is the College changing the attendance policy?
A: There are three issues being addressed in this policy. One is giving students more responsibility for their own behavior with accountability to promote their personal growth. A second is the transition to new administrative software and institutional resources needed for attendance purposes. Third, the U. S. Department of Education recently ruled that one credit hour must be 15 50-minute class periods with two hours of academic work expected outside of class for every hour in class. We believe this policy provides answers to all three of these.
The College seeks to prepare students for leadership. Learning to plan responsibly regarding vacations and activities that take one away from work and other obligations is part of maturing toward leadership. Helping students develop a stronger sense of responsibility for their choices is promoted by accountability.
The College has spent several thousand dollars and untold hours every semester in several offices to track every student absence and excuse and connect them. In fall 2009, only six students lost credit in a total of 18 semester hours because of taking too many cuts. We offered 11,997 student semester hours in fall 2009. Many institutional resources have been used to support a policy that few students have been violating. We needed to create a more efficient means of helping those students.
Q: Will students have to use personal days for athletics and fine arts participation when they cause class absences? Students wanting to do ministry or other co-curricular activities and events may object because they do not want to use personal days for these events.
A: This question and comment presupposes that excused absences exist under this policy. They do not. There is no distinction between personal days and college sanctioned activities. Either students are in class or they are absent. It is students’ responsibility to be certain they use their absences wisely. Some students in multiple co-curricular activities may have no additional elective cuts to use.
Any absence for any reason is a personal day. Students make a personal choice to participate in that choir, team, event, or activity. College students should not feel hurt or punished by being expected to be in class. Good students understand they are making choices when they choose to be in multiple activities.
This is not an honor system. Since faculty do their normal recordkeeping in the Learning Management System (LMS), students have full access to their class attendance records as they have in recent years.
Q: What if a student uses up his or her absences in sports and choir and then becomes ill?
A: These will be handled the same way they are under existing policy. At the close of the semester, students who are absent more than their status permits may apply for restoration of credit. These appeals are reserved for those whose excessive absences were caused by emergencies (documented by the Student Life Office), medical necessity (documented by the Student Life Office), or College-sanctioned activities (College has documentation). Appeals for restoration of credit are submitted to the Academic Committee by means of a form that can be downloaded from the Registrar’s page on MNet under Students or in the Registrar’s Office.
Q: What if a student who is allowed two weeks of absences takes a couple of cuts and later becomes hospitalized because of an illness or injury? What if a student takes cuts early in the semester when he is in choir and on the baseball team?
A: These two situations are quite different from each other. The first one was not foreseeable by the student and s/he had no control over it. If s/he ends up over the limit, the appeal for restoration of credit at the end of the semester is likely to succeed.
In the second case, the student had already made the choice of being in a choir and on the baseball team. If s/he is allowed two weeks of absences, s/he has the responsibility to make certain that the combination of baseball, choir, and cuts does not take her/him out of class more than two weeks. Students who are on a sports team and a choir need to track their class absences carefully.
Q: Why are there “black out” periods where no cuts are allowed before and after Thanksgiving Break and Spring Break?
A: The “black out” policy grows out of faculty and department chair concerns regarding the adverse affect of excessive absences on the quality of classroom instruction, student participation, and student presentations surrounding vacation periods. This is already a problem. The new policy expands students’ opportunity to cut classes, which would translate into even heavier absences surrounding vacation periods. Students can still cut the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving or the Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving break. Students may even cut the Tuesday before and the Monday after Thanksgiving break. These breaks are normal lengths and are reasonable.
Thanksgiving includes two flexible cut days in addition to the break. They can be used either before or after Thanksgiving. Additionally, the prior decision allowing extended cuts immediately before or after the Thanksgiving and Spring breaks was an educationally bad decision that probably would have needed to be addressed in the existing policy.
Q: Why is the fine so steep for missing classes for personal reasons on those dates?
A: The size of the fine is steep. The $75.00 fine per class is intended to send a message to students that we are serious about class attendance and learning. The intent is to say, don’t skip class on these dates.
Q: What happens if a family member is getting married on one of those dates when cuts are not allowed? What if 18 inches of snow falls two hours before the student was planning to drive back to campus?
A: The current practice under the existing policy is that the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Students, and Registrar adjudicate requests for exceptions to the policy. These requests are normally granted for illness, injury, serious family emergency, or other unforeseeable circumstances not within a student’s control.
Q: I have lots of friends, so I get asked to be in a lot of weddings. Are these “excused?”
A: Usually you are asked to be in a wedding far in advance. Most students have far more cuts than under the old policy, and absences for weddings, rehearsals, etc. count in the total missed. If you are in a wedding – even your own – you must use your own one-, two-, or three-week allotment to fulfill this nice privilege. There are no excused absences.
Q: What about weddings during “black-out” periods? Around Thanksgiving and Spring Break?
A: If you are a family member, this might fall into the “family emergency” category. Your absence will still count, but you may be able to participate without the $75 per class fine. This is only for family members or people in the wedding party.
Q: Will there be a warning of some kind sent to students when they have used all their absences?
A: Yes. Students have full access to their attendance records for each class in the LMS. No other notice will be given. This is the only warning students have received for the last four semesters. It has been adequate and effective. On a vehicle dashboard, most people prefer a gauge to a warning. This method provides continuous warning so students can plan effectively. Students will be held accountable for keeping track of their absences in each class.
Q: What if I miss more classes than I am allowed?
A: Students who are absent more than their attendance status permits, including both official College activities and other elective absences in any given course, will not be granted credit for the course, except by special permission from the Academic Committee.
The following grades are given when students exceed their absence limits depending upon timing and the grade earned in the course at the point of dismissal from class. A grade of WF (Withdrew Failing) is used when a student is dismissed from class during the final six weeks of the semester and earned a D or F at midterm. OC (Overcut) is used during the appeal process. If the appeal for restoration of credit is denied, or no appeal is forthcoming, NC (No Credit) is used.
Q: What if a student does not have a computer or know how to use the LMS?
A: Five computer labs on campus and the computers in the Library provide adequate access for the small percentage of students who do not bring their own computers. Students who do not know how to use the LMS will need to learn how. Computer literacy is a basic college survival skill and a basic life skill for college-educated individuals. This has been the method of communicating class absence records for the past for semesters. It has been adequate and effective.
Q: What does two weeks of class absences mean? Do I get 14 days in each course?
A: Determine how many times a course meets in two weeks. That is how many absences you are permitted in the semester if you are allowed two weeks of absences. If the course meets three days each week, and you are allowed two weeks of absences, you are permitted to miss six times for all reasons for the entire semester. If the course meets twice each week, and you are allowed two weeks of absences, you are permitted to miss four times for all reasons for the entire semester. If the course meets once each week, and you are allowed two weeks of absences, you are permitted to miss twice for all reasons for the entire semester. These limits are firm and the consequence for exceeding them is loss of credit for the course.
Q: What is the difference between an absence and a tardy?
A: When a student arrives late to class, but less than 15 minutes late, s/he is tardy. If s/he is later than 15 minutes, s/he is considered as absent. Three tardies count as one absence.
Q: I’m involved in several extracurricular activities and I have some ongoing health issues. Additionally, I commute and have a secondary role of taking care of sick children. I will not miss unless I must, so how do I make sure I can preserve credit with all my attendance challenges?
A: First, we assume you are a strong student to be able to succeed with the issues you identified. That being said, here is what you or anyone needs to do to protect yourself from loss of credit. You must document all absences. The Athletic Office, Fine Arts Office, Student Health Center, Student Activities Office, Student Ministries Office, and academic department chairs document absences related to their activities.
Anything else must be documented by you reporting your other “emergencies” with the Student Life Office. You will have only two weeks from the time of the absence to report this for documentation. You will need to report (1) your name, (2) the date of the absence, (3) class(es) missed, (4) cause of absence, and (5) the contact number of some official who can verify the emergency.
If you overcut your total allowable absences, you will need to secure documentation of your absences from the Student Health Center, Athletic Office, Fine Arts Office, Student Life Office, Student Activities Office, Student Ministries Office, or academic department chairs. Documentation that absences are only from these causes will maximize your chances of retaining credit.
Q: What factor will lower my chances of receiving credit if I overcut?
A: Asking for forgiveness instead of permission is not a good plan. Ignoring stated policies and asking for mercy is never a good idea.
- Optional absences taken after a number of non-optional (illness, injury, family emergency) absences.
- Weak grades in the class (below B).
Low reputation related to diligence, faithfulness, and commitment to academic studies and class attendance.
Failure to document emergency absences within the prescribed time limit.
Dishonesty or attempts at deception by false, misleading, or incomplete information when documenting “emergency absences.”