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USG revives discussion on Ohio State excused-absence policy

Undergraduate Student Government’s general assembly voted last week on a resolution to create a university-wide excused-absence policy. The resolution passed unanimously.

This policy suggests the university enact an enforcement standard that ensures all professors do not penalize students for missing class if there is a valid reason to be excused. These reasons include, but are not limited to, military duty, religious observances and deaths in the family. Students would still be responsible for completing the work required for their missed class.

Ohio State does not have a university-wide absence policy, and instead lets each department or school decide its own policy.

USG Vice President Sophie Chang, a fourth-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, said this policy could relieve students from dealing with inflexible professors who will not adapt their attendance policy.

“If you have a final during a religious holiday you shouldn’t be required to go to your final in light of your holiday and you should have the flexibility to reschedule whatever final or class or exam that you’re taking at that time,” Chang said.

Mario Belfiglio, a fourth-year in biology and USG’s chair for the undergraduate caucus, said the majority of introductory classes have exams in the evenings, around the time of prayer for certain religions, which would be protected by this policy.

USG senator Becky Slavik, a third-year in international studies and Russian, said she has personally experienced times where it was difficult to be excused from class for religious holidays, and said other people in the student body have felt the same way.

“They’ve been told that they need to show extra proof or they need to make it seem like it’s important and you really have to go out of your way to explain what the holiday is,” Slavik, also a co-sponsor of the resolution, said.

A similar resolution was passed by USG in February of the 2016-2017 academic year. However, resolutions expire at the end of each academic year, and Kate Greer, a second-year in German and history and a co-sponsor of the resolution, said she believes this updated resolution could generate support from administrators.

Greer worked with the academic affairs committee and drew examples from Big Ten universities and Ivy League schools that currently have university-wide absence policies

The University of Minnesota has 10 criteria that allow students to remain unpenalized from missing class, including jury duty, religious observances and military service, all of which USG is aiming to establish as excusable reasons at Ohio State.

Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson backed Ohio State’s individualized policy and said, “We believe that the course instructor or course director is the person best qualified to determine the requirements for his or her course.”

Chase Barnett, a second-year in finance and political science and the co-author of the resolution, said he hopes to advance the resolution within the University Senate, which is a governing body consisting of administrators, faculty and students that enact university policies, in order to see it become an academic policy.

Currently, there is no set date for the University Senate to consider the resolution.

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