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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students and faculty provide insight on proposed attendance policy change

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Changes to attendance policies at Texas A&M were proposed by student senators last year and brought to university officials for consideration. 

With the semester in full swing, students may be keeping track of their absences in certain classes to avoid penalization.
Angela Winkler, assistant director of Student Affairs, said her office frequently deals with the policy, outlined in Student Rule 7, which explains the parameters of excused absences and the procedures dealing with attendance.
“We get a lot of questions about attendance in my office and not just from students, but also from faculty, and usually we are able to go to the rule and look through it and see where it falls or where it makes sense,” Winkler said. “I think for the most part it works.”
Over the years, there have been proposals to revising the attendance policy to include internship or job interviews as university excused absences. Jordan Argamany, petroleum engineering senior, and Alan Hernandez, management information systems junior, introduced a Student Senate bill last year to revise rule. At the time, Argamany was a senator from the college of engineering and Hernandez was an on-campus senator and chair of the student services committee. The bill was passed unanimously by Student Senate.
“In the professional world and in graduate school, interviews, professionally, would be considered excusable absences and professors had the discretion, in that case, taken away from them because these were unconditionally allowed,” Agamany said.
Currently, Rule 7 covers absences due to illness, legal proceedings, death of an immediate relative, required military duties, required graduate and professional internships and mandatory participation of sporting events as an athlete. The rule also allows graduate and professional students to miss class for mandatory admission interviews that can’t be rescheduled. The Student Senate bill aimed to revise the rule to extend to undergraduates.
“We want our students to graduate and move on to graduate school or employment, [so] there could be maybe be [an expansion] of that one piece within the Rule 7.1.8,” Winkler said.
Argamany said further progress on the bill’s goals are currently at a standstill. During meetings between Student Senate and Faculty Senate, concerns of abuse were at the forefront of the conversation. Faculty said they were concerned students would misuse the bill to skip class repeatedly, but Argamany and Hernandez said they were willing to revise their bill to mitigate the avenues for abuse.
“Attending a class certainly helps, especially in engineering, but I will say that I think that kind of discretion is very nice and I think that it kind of ties into the bill that we tried to propagate forward,” Argamany said. “If there are people who are afraid to go to career fairs and other things, I feel that’s another topic for further development.”
Argamany and Hernandez both said there are many professors willing to work with students, but this bill is for the students who cannot get their professor to excuse them because of university regulations.
“If I had something like a Super Day on a Friday and an exam on [the same] Friday, which one am I supposed to take — my future, or am I supposed to pick the exam, which is 40 percent of my overall grade?” Argamany said.
Hernandez, who currently serves as an undergraduate representative on the university rules and regulations committee, said he and Argamany hope to continue working on their bill to facilitate necessary provisions that will further conversation at the Faculty Senate level.
“Moving forward, we are hoping to continue candid conversations with the administration, particularly at the Faculty Senate level,” Hernandez said. “My stance is the same as it was a year-and-a-half ago when we started this effort. If we can allow the student the opportunity to attend mandatory interviews and work with the professor to make up the exam or work they missed, then that would be the ideal set up.”
Attendance policies often differ among classes and professors across campus. Some classes make attendance mandatory by instating grade penalties in their syllabus, while others state attendance is not required. However, there are some degree plans which require internships and, in some instances, an interview for such an event which cannot be rescheduled that can fall on a mandatory class day.
“If a specific major requires an internship as part of the degree, then that’s a much clearer reason for that to be excused,” Winkler said.
A student can also put in an appeal with the department dean if an agreement between the student and professor cannot be reached on excusing the absence.
Nathan Bracher, professor of French, said he tries to be reasonable with his students in terms of absences and believes a mutual respect between the student and professor will go a long way if a student needs to miss class for a legitimate reason.
“I really think it’s important to recognize the various pressures on students,” Bracher said. “Job interviews and graduate school interviews are important and I don’t think people should be penalized for it. I don’t think adding another rule or another set of intricate legalities is the way to approach it.”
Student policies involving attendance primarily state the student should notify the professor about absences and the professor should have a conversation with the student if there are any issues.
Revising a university rule is a multifaceted process. Revisions can be made at any time during the process to work out any issues or concerns before the change goes in for review by University President Michael K. Young.
“I think ultimately this comes down to progress,” Agamany said. “I don’t know what form progress will take, but I hope that progress in some shape or form does occur because ultimately, this will serve to benefit the university as a whole.”

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