Students face issues with attendance

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Photo by Maria Crenshaw

The Office of Disability Services is located on the fifth floor of the 707 Building.

Sarah Foley, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, gets severe chronic migraines. Last semester, her migraines sent her to the emergency room 22 times. Christina Curtis, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, has a chronic health condition that requires her to go home to a hospital in Chicago for treatments fairly frequently.

For these students, it can be difficult to adhere to their classes’ attendance policies.

Marquette has no specific attendance policy in place. According to Marquette’s online bulletin, faculty are not required by the university to take attendance for their courses, but if they use an attendance policy, they are required to put it on the syllabus so students are aware.

For students like Foley and Curtis, who have reasons outside their control as to why they might expect to surpass the absence limit in their classes, the Office of Disability Services provides options.

There are different types of accommodations for students, ODS director Jack Bartelt said. Some accommodations are “more objective,” he said, like “time and a half” on exams. This is where students are allowed to take exams in a separate room and given the length of time the professor offers all students in addition to half that time. In comparison, Bartelt said accommodations regarding the attendance policy are known as a “consideration of” accommodation, which means that ODS can require professors to consider adjusting their rules for a particular student dealing with a mental or physical disability.

“The important part for us is the instructors taking a very purposeful look at their attendance policy and considering whether or not, for this student with a documented need, there can be some amount of flexibility in that attendance policy,” Bartelt explained.

Ultimately, however, the professor makes the decision as to how many missed classes make a student unable to pass the class, Bartelt said. Because every class has different requirements and needs, Bartelt said there is no way ODS could require a professor to give a student a set amount of extra absent days. For example, he said, a graduate-level clinical course that requires students to spend time with patients or clients is likely to be stricter on absences in comparison to a lecture hall that does not involve much discussion.

Ana Garner, a journalism professor and the chair of journalism and media studies, said it is easier for her as a professor to make accommodations for students when she is notified of absences as far in advance as possible.

“At a certain point it’s not really a matter of wanting to work with the student. If they’ve missed a great deal, then it’s really hard for them to actually be successful in the class, they don’t have the material and it’s not just a matter of reading the homework,” Garner said.

Garner said she does work with students who have situations that require them to be absent on a case-by-case basis.

Foley said she believes attendance policies should be less strict. She said the policy sometimes makes it difficult for her to advocate for herself when speaking with professors about her situation.

“It’s up to their discretion whether I’m able to remain in the class even though I can’t be at all the lectures and classes,” Foley said. “So when I’m absent a lot, if they want to withdraw me from the class, they have the ability to do that.”

She said she has had issues within bringing professors notes from the hospital to legitimize why she wasn’t in class.

Foley said she had to withdraw from three classes last semester. In fall 2018, she had to withdraw from three courses, and in spring 2019 she had to withdraw from four.

Of her withdrawals, Foley said only one instance was due to a professor removing her from a course due to too many absences. The others were mutual decisions that her health prevented her from keeping up with the course schedule.

Garner said her attendance policy states that for her class held once a week, students are allowed two absences, and for her three credit course, students are allowed four. However, she said she has never had to drop a student from her class due to excessive absences.

Curtis said she has been fortunate to have professors help accommodate her situation.

“Most of my teachers are really understanding about it and don’t dock the points for that,” she said. “But in other cases, it’s not always that easy. And it’s just hard to make up class because you miss what’s said during lecture and even if you get someone’s notes, it’s not the same. It’s really difficult.”

Editor’s Note: Sarah Foley is the roommate of Executive News Editor Annie Mattea. Mattea had no role in the reporting or editing of this story. 

This story was written by Kelli Arseneau. She can be reached at kelli.arseneau@marquette.edu.