Posted at 10:40 a.m., Nov. 19, 2015

College to define school-sanctioned event absences

Daniel Powell discusses policies between instructors

The college has initiated an effort to define an approved absence so students are not penalized for school-sanctioned absences.

The number of students effected by this problem is small, but Daniel Powell, dean of Arts and Humanities, said if it is a problem for any students, it is a disservice.

Powell led a committee that recently put together a draft policy about this issue. He said the goal is to create programs that will help students succeed and grow with the college. The committee includes faculty and students to bring a wider view to the meetings.

The rough draft of this policy included the students’ role in ensuring success, Powell said, a timeline of when students should make instructors aware of absences and the advisers’ role in the process.

Powell also said the committee is only discussing the definition of approved absences. Powell said the committee agreed it does not want to take away the instructor-based attendance policies because classes are unique.

Instructors rarely drastically change their attendance or any other policies for a course, Powell said, adding that it has been a shock to many faculty, staff and students that this debate has even taken place this semester.

Bringing the issue closer to home, Wingspan interviewed 13 students concerning their feelings about their attendance policies as well as if they have heard any debates. Only one was aware of any attendance policy changes.

However, each student said they believe instructors are fair and clear about attendance policies.

There are some academic or extracurricular activities that students cannot miss,and it has been an issue that can force students to make decisions about what is more important to them, said instructor for Computer Information Systems and Faculty Senate President Leah Noonan.

Of the 13 students, five are involved in school activities, eight are not but one was prior to this semester.

Students Brad Becker, music education major, and Samantha Phillips, undeclared major, said if students simply attend class and communicate with instructors, they shouldn’t run into problems.

While many students say they do not have this issue with current attendance definitions, it has been a conversation among faculty and staff on multiple occasions, Noonan said. Attendance policies are decided on a teacher-by-teacher basis simply because it has never been addressed, Noonan said. She added it has become an important subject to discuss because some students could have found themselves in strict-policy classes, which she said can create problems for students who don’t understand. A student may not learn what an instructor’s policy is until it is too late to switch classes.

“Faculty is on campus a week before classes start, and I don’t think many students know that,” Noonan said. There are not many sources students can use to find out what kind of policies to expect when registering for classes, which can create problems once the semester begins.

When discussions on subjects such as the attendance policy arise, questions need to be asked, Noonan said.

“Should advising or teachers be in control?” Noonan asked. “Whose job is it?” When these questions are asked and answers have been developed, then solutions start to become visible, she said.

According to Noonan, Faculty Senate is working on a procedure to find out what kind of notice instructors need and if events need to be sanctioned. Faculty members enjoy seeing students involved in activities because those students tend to do well in academics and feel like it makes the students well-rounded, but Noonan said she feels like this is a situation where there is pressure to try to please everyone, when in reality, it just isn’t possible.