Excused vs. unexcused

The differences between excused and unexcused absences has been a source of confusion for many students at the University of Miami. Professors have varying policies regarding absences that have proven troublesome for students who sort through many different syllabi every semester.

One proposal to standardize attendance policies at the university unanimously made its way through student government senate and is currently being deliberated upon by administrators before being brought for a faculty senate vote.

“The major point of the bill was to create a uniform attendance policy regarding what is considered an excused absence, and what that means for students,” said sophomore Michael Kaplan, chairman of the student government academic affairs committee.

According to Kaplan, illnesses, university-approved religious holidays and pre-excused absences will be classified as excused absences that will not count against the student.

Pre-excused absences must be requested and registered via myUM. A form would be e-mailed to the respective professors, giving them the option of classifying the request as excused or unexcused. If the student cannot have the request approved, an appeals process would be available whereby the student can overturn the professor’s decision.

The bill would not mandate students to attend classes.

“All it does it set up a uniform definition of what is an excused absence, and what that means for the student who is absent,” Kaplan said.

Currently, the bill is being modified by the administration. It should be presented to the faculty senate for a vote before spring break. If passed, the bill is expected to take effect in the fall of 2010.

“The bill gives a way for students to have a uniform process to have an equal chance for absences to be excused,” said Christina Farmer, student government Speaker of the Senate. “In terms of illnesses and emergencies, a lot of times the process on the campus is not uniform with the administration. What’s best for students is to know how to get their absences to get their absences approved. We don’t think it should hold them back if they have a family emergency or an appointment.”

Members of the Academic Affairs Committee have been working with Dr. William Green, the dean of undergraduate education.

Attendance policies throughout the university vary widely. For example, the business law department in the School of Business Administration, requires an 80 percent attendance rate in order to attain an “A”.

The only provision the university policy for excused absences is in the academic bulletin. Students are justified in missing a class in case of a university activity, an academic activity,or a major religious holiday, as designated by the university. Students must provide documentation for the first two excuses, according to the bulletin.

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.

Lila Albizu may be contacted at lalbizu@themiamihurricane.com.

Ramon Galiana may be contacted at rgaliana@themiamihurricane.com.