Written by Judah Brass and Amanda Blake
Southern Adventist University’s official attendance policy, which can be found on Southern’s website and was last updated for Winter 2021, states that class and lab attendance is expected, and professors will generally not excuse absences for reasons other than sickness, authorized school trips or emergencies. However, the policy also says Academic Administration will officially excuse students in quarantine or isolation for COVID-19.
Bob Young, senior vice president for Academic Administration, said he further clarified details of the attendance policy with professors before this semester began to help them understand how to operate their classrooms amid COVID-19.
The policy states that students who are ill, have been exposed to anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days or have a recently developed cough or loss of taste or smell should not attend in-person classes. It further states that students should not attend in-person classes if they have experienced chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea in the last two days.
The policy encourages students who feel ill or choose to self-isolate to contact the University Health Center (UHC) or another health care provider as soon as possible.
Students must communicate with professors before any absence or within 24 hours of missing class, according to the policy. To be excused for repeated absences due to illness, students might be required to present documentation from a health care provider. The policy encourages students in quarantine or isolation to communicate with their professors as soon as possible to make arrangements to complete assignments.
According to the policy, students who miss classes, labs or clinicals are provided the following accommodations: synchronous live streaming, asynchronous viewing of recordings or other methods as deemed appropriate.
“The goal is to be sensitive to students who have health concerns and medical needs,” said Gary Bradley, education and psychology professor and Administrative Council member. “Attendance is better this semester than in the previous semesters. Students are doing a good job coming to class as much as they can. I appreciate the students’ effort this semester in coming to class and meeting in person.”
Young said he instructed professors before this semester began to provide necessary resources for students who are ill or in quarantine or isolation, and it was unacceptable to expect students exiting quarantine or isolation to make up a week or more of work. If they had problems pre-recording or recording lectures, professors were advised to contact IT or Online Campus. However, Young said he also told professors that “something other than recorded lectures may be apropos” in certain instances, as some classes are not didactic in nature.
Young said he also advised professors to track attendance, preferably using the automated attendance tracking system developed by IT. Young said this system has been adjusted to reflect pre-COVID-19 classroom seating capacities, and the easiest way for teachers to track attendance is to print or electronically display a system-generated QR code for each class.
Young also instructed professors to ask their students to stay in the same seat throughout the semester to limit exposure to COVID-19 and make contact-tracing easier for the UHC.
According to Young, professors were required to include the attendance policy or a version of it in their syllabi this semester.
For example, music professor Kurt Miyashiro states in at least one of his syllabi, “Due to the COVID-19 situation, please do not physically attend if you are feeling ill. You will be expected to ‘attend’ the class virtually; we will have a Zoom link, and [I] will also post the class.”
Communication Professor Lorraine Ball states in hers, “Each class will be recorded on Zoom and uploaded to eClass via Panopto. If you are not well, please stay home and connect remotely until you are able to return to class safely. If you are in quarantine or isolation, please let me know so I can help.”