New attendance policy in the works

For University of Miami students, going to class is part of the day-to-day routine. But no specific university attendance policy leaves it up to the professor to decide how many of those classes students can miss.

The current university policy for attendance states that “instructors will distribute course syllabi which include policies regarding class attendance and missed or late work,” but does not provide many other specifics.

According to Student Government Vice-President Kristen Weaver, talks have been confirmed for next semester to create a detailed university-wide attendance policy that will put an end to the guesswork.

“Right now the attendance policy is very vague,” Weaver said. “It’s mostly up to the professor.”

The effort to create a general attendance policy was a Student Senate initiative that will also include the Faculty Senate and the Office of Academic Enhancement. So far only talks about a generalized attendance policy have been confirmed, set to begin next semester.

“We’re also looking at other schools to come up with the best possible scenario,” Weaver said.

According to Weaver, at this moment no proposals have been made and the three offices are working together to come up with an effective policy.

“If the Senate and the students believe differences in attendance policies are leading to unfairness then there ought to be a policy,” wrote Sam Terilli, a professor in the School of Communications in an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane. “Writing a good policy that will work in a large, diverse institution such as UM will not be easy. For example, I would not want a policy that inflexibly prohibits a professor from granting exceptions that benefit deserving students.”

Terilli added that a class that meets once a week shouldn’t have the same attendance policy as a class that meets three times a week.

“Not all classes are the same,” sophomore Erica Schiff said. “The attendance shouldn’t be the same for a large auditorium class than for a small one.”

While attendance policies are as varied as the faculty at the university, most, like the Business Law department, require an 80 percent attendance rate to get an A.

The only provision the university policy makes is for excused absences, which are spelled out in the Academic Bulletin. Students are justified in missing a class in case of a university activity, such as “a musical and debate activity, R.O.T.C. function, or varsity athletic trip,” an academic activity, or a major religious holiday, as designated by the university. Students must provide documentation for the first two excuses.

The bulletin also leaves a window for the instructors to designate what other excuses, such as illness or family emergencies, are acceptable.

The university also requires professors to give students “either the opportunity to make up, or to be excused from, work missed, without any reduction in the student’s final course grade” in case of a university-approved absence. It’s left up to the instructor whether to extend the same courtesy to the student in case of other absences.