SMU student, Paloma Renteria, started a petition for SMU to institute a uniform attendance policy, which allowed students to miss class if they feel sick. As of right now, attendance is left to the professor’s discretion.
SMU remains committed to opening in the fall. However, the details concerning their plan to reopen in the fall have led to questions about how campus will operate. One of the questions that emerged is how attendance policies will be adjusted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“I know myself and my family and friends have been concerned about returning to campus in the fall,” Renteria said. “I know from my experience, I in the past have gone to class sick, especially with professors who have strict attendance policies.
Renteria’s petition focuses on dropping the attendance policy requirement for classes across SMU in order to ensure students that their grade is not impacted if they miss class because they are feeling sick.
“Like every policy there is always the ability to misused if you are not careful,” said Renteria in response to students abusing this policy. “However, SMU students are paying $75,000 tuition to go to class and they are pretty motivated to do well and participate, so I see a very reasonable situation where this policy is not abused.”
The Faculty Senate president, Dr. Auriele Thiele, emphasized that policies for the fall semester are still being designed.
“In-person attendance to the lectures may rotate so that, for instance, half the class comes to the classroom one day and the other half the other day, in a manner determined by the instructor. Further, due to time differences, students who take the course online may not be able to view the course in Zoom during the time slot scheduled for the course,” said Dr. Thiele. “This means that we will have to find novel ways to make sure students stay abreast of the material instead of the traditional attendance taking.”
When reaching out to the administration to comment concerning the petition, they said they were not aware of the petition and highlighted SMU’s Fall Big Picture plan.
“The Office of the Dean of Students can provide support in the form of a note students may share with their instructors if they have been asked to remain in isolation or quarantine through SMU’s contact tracing efforts if that is helpful,” said Communications Director Dianne Anderson. “For COVID-19 cases, students would be in isolation while symptomatic and for several days thereafter. While in isolation a student is excused from class.”
However, even this approach is not dealing with asymptomatic cases or students who do not recognize their symptoms and do not get tested.
“If people are sick or not feeling well, they should be excused from classes. We should not wait until someone is COVID-19 positive and instead have a more proactive approach,” said Renteria.