Sick? Your syllabus doesn’t care.

Molly Bolf and Jennifer Liu

The official attendance policy at UT is “regular attendance at all class meetings is expected.” Often   departments agree on an attendance policy and all professors within that department must follow that requirement, as well as make the final
decisions regarding a what constitutes an excused absence. 

 Professors also make the decisions regarding missed exams. Most syllabi include information on whether or not retakes are available. If a student suffers from a “critical situation and/or medical or family emergencies,” the student can file a “class absence notification request,” with the Student Emergency Services in the Office of the Dean of Students. After this, the student’s professors will be notified of the student’s condition. This does not apply to “non-emergencies,” according to the Dean of Students, which includes illnesses such as cold, flu, staph infection and mononucleosis. Students with these issues must contact the professors directly. 

UT’s attendance policy is similar to other Texas universities. Texas A&M University requires students who miss classes for three or more days obtain a explanatory doctor’s note to have their absence excused at the professor’s discretion. Texas State University states failure to adhere to attendance requirements may lower students’ grades. These requirements are up to the professor. 

Attendance policies left up to the discretion of a professor or department can fail to accommodate students with non-serious but problematic illnesses, such as the flu, strep throat or a sinus infection. These illnesses can last up to seven days when treated and three weeks untreated, with symptoms that severely impact everyday life. For many students, a seemingly harmless seasonal illness can be a death sentence for their GPA. 

The Department of Rhetoric and Writing has a strict attendance policy allowing a limited number of absences before students receive a failing grade. This policy does not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. 

Diane Davis, a professor and chair of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, says this policy encourages students to attend classes, where students learn best in this particular subject. She mentions this policy is not non-negotiable, and students with specific circumstances preventing them from attending classes can always work something out with the department. 

Student Alice Kanitz Sanchez describes her experience with illness during a week of exams. Kanitz argues that the university should change their policy to allow students with an illness to retake missed exams. She calls for a more accommodating attendance policy for students who are too sick to attend class.  

Bolf is an English sophomore from Fort Worth. Liu is a Rhetoric & Writing, Philosophy and Plan II junior from Plano.