University Senate reverses policy: Students expected to attend classes during Winter 2021 Semester

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The Southern Adventist University Senate recently approved changes to the academic attendance policy for the Winter 2021 Semester, making class attendance expected once again. 

The policy — a departure from the attendance policy implemented during the Fall 2020 Semester — makes exceptions for students who are ill, show COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. 

University Senate approved the change on Dec. 14, reversing the Fall 2020 policy which, as a COVID-19 safety precaution, prevented professors from grading for attendance. The new policy will follow the University Catalog Attendance Policy utilized in previous academic years, with a new set of guidelines prepared specifically to maintain academic integrity while ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff, according to those involved in the policy change.

“A number of faculty were concerned that students were not attending class for multiple reasons other than illness,” said Matt Tolbert, chair of the University Senate and an associate professor in the School of Education and Psychology. “The learning environments, the classrooms themselves, were impacted by students not attending regularly. [We] wanted to encourage students to attend class in the winter term while still making a number of provisions for the safety of everyone.”

Some of the changes added to the class attendance policy for this coming Winter 2021 semester include excused absences for students who are sick, show COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19. However, students may be asked to present documentation from a health provider in the case of repeated absences. 

“[University] Senate passed this policy because we believe that attendance in classes is very important for students’ success,” Tolbert said. “Simultaneously, we don’t want students to be coming to class sick. We will be making arrangements so that [students] are excused from class if necessary. [However], if  illness or quarantine is not the case, students are expected to be in class.”

Students who are absent due to quarantine or isolation will be officially excused from class by Academic Administration, according to Tolbert. Those who choose to self-isolate need to contact University Health Center or another health provider.

According to Student Development Vice President Dennis Negron, there will also be a return to the enrichment credit program, but specific details are yet to be announced. 

Click here to read the full attendance policy.

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