With the recent outbreak of the Norovirus and making it mandatory for professors to excuse all absences this week, it is the perfect time for the University to create a standard absence policy.
Some professors ask for an e-mail if a student is sick, while others go as far as requesting a doctor’s note. Some professors do not ask for any kind of notification and others regard all absences, even illness, to be considered unexcused.
Because of this inconsistency and unfairness, the University should seriously consider creating an absence policy where all professors have to follow the same guidelines.
We’ve noticed the average professor allows up to two unexcused absences every semester, however, this number certainly does vary. Furthermore, what is considered an unexcused absence? Some professors consider an illness as excused while others don’t. This is why we need a consistent system.
UWO Dean of Students Art Munin recommended students stay home if they are ill, and that they don’t return to class for two more days after their symptoms pass.
“What we recommend to students is that if you are sick, please stay home whether that be your residence hall room or off campus,” Munin said. “It is vitally important that you continue to stay home for 48 hours past the time that you recover from symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea. In those 48 hours you likely will feel better, but you continue to be contagious to those around you. Additionally, students who are sick, or are around those who are sick, must diligently keep everything clean.”
The problem with this advice is that if a student gets a 48-hour bug, like the norovirus, and can’t make it to the doctors then the two classes they missed will count as unexcused and they won’t be able to make them up.
Art professor Karina Cutler-Lake said she does require a note of some kind for any sick days past the two allowed absences, but she is making some exceptions with the virus going around campus.
“Everyone gets two absences a semester, and hopefully, this is sufficient to cover any day that a student feels ill enough to stay home yet not so sick that they require medical attention,” Cutler-Lake said.
“Once those days have been exhausted, I do like to see a note on letterhead, especially if I don’t know the student well. This week, however, I have urged any student with norovirus symptoms to stay home, no questions asked, and no penalty given.”
It is understandable that professors often require some sort of verification that a student is sick so that they know they’re not just ditching class. However, if the number of absences a student was allowed to take each semester was standardized, it would be easier for students to remember without constantly checking their syllabuses about which class counted absences against their overall grade.
Cutler-Lake added she believes with the wide variety of courses at UWO, it is better for instructors to decide how many absences each student gets.
“General guidelines might be helpful, but all courses on this campus are not the same, and I think it’s best left up to each instructor to decide,” Cutler-Lake said.
However, the inconsistency of what is considered an excused absence needs to be addressed in a generalized campus-wide policy. Allowing for two excused absences for illness, unsafe weather or if your car breaks down, but any further absences without an email or verification of some sort would count as unexcused.