Reasonable Attendance Adjustments

 Absences from Class and Class Attendance General Policy

 It is the policy of Appalachian State University that class attendance is an important part of a student’s educational experience. Students are expected to attend every meeting of their classes and are responsible for class attendance. Regardless of what reasons there may be for absences, students are accountable for all academic activities, and faculty may require special work or tests to make up for the missed class or classes. In addition, faculty members are encouraged to make reasonable accommodations for students requesting to miss class due to the observance of religious holidays.

Faculty, at their discretion, may include class attendance as a criterion in determining a student’s final grade in the course. On the first day of class, faculty must inform students of their class attendance policy and the effect of that policy on their final grade; both policies must be clearly stated in the class syllabus.

A student who does not attend a class during one of its first two meetings may, at the discretion of the academic department, lose their seat in that class. Further, if a class meets only one time per week-e.g., a laboratory or an evening class-the student must attend the first meeting of that class or risk losing her or his seat.

The Office of the Dean of Students within Student Affairs is designated office to notify faculty (link is external) of absences due to acute events such as surgeries, hospitalizations, or death of an immediate family member. Absence notifications from the Office of the Dean of Students cannot officially excuse absences.

Reasonable Attendance Adjustments

All students, regardless of a disability, are responsible for fulfilling the essential requirements of their courses/programs/degrees, including attendance expectations. However, some students have serious health related disabilities which may impact attendance due to their episodic nature. This may include, but is not limited to: inflammatory bowel diseases; seizure disorders; diabetes; mental health conditions experiencing acute exacerbation; various autoimmune disorders, or conditions requiring treatment such as chemotherapy or dialysis.  

The Office of Disability Resources (ODR) may provide approval for Reasonable Attendance Adjustments listed on a student’s Accommodation Plan. While this may verify a demonstrated need, ODR cannot officially excuse absences and it is not intended to be applied retroactively. Reasonable Attendance Adjustments does not permit unlimited absences and students remain accountable for all academic activities (assignments, assessments, required readings, etc.) and evaluation standards specified on the syllabus. Seasonal illness (ie. flu, mono), temporary impairments, health conditions not on record with ODR or non-disability related absences are not subject to reasonable attendance adjustments. 

Faculty can often can find reasonable, equivalent options for students without compromising course standards. These options should be determined on a case-by-case basis in consideration of the disability’s anticipated impact on attendance, the course requirements and faculty expectations.

It is not reasonable for faculty to fundamentally alter, waive or lower essential course requirements, academic standards, or educational experiences/outcomes when attempting to accommodate absences. ODR may be consulted regarding course-specific adjustments.

Some options that may be considered as a reasonable adjustment for an absence:

  • Assigning comparable alternate work.
  • Altering timelines for coursework and tests.
  • Allowing students to attend repeat lectures given in other course sections.
  • Allowing the student to review missed materials during office hours.
  • Allowing the student to obtain missed material/notes from a classmate.
  • Allowing the student to attend class remotely (such as, Zoom).

The Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Arrangement form  should be completed by the student and faculty to establish and document appropriate adjustments for each course. A copy should be submitted to ODR.

Excessive absences, even with an approved ODR attendance accommodation, may require a student to explore options such as a Medical Class Load Reduction or Medical Withdrawal through Student Health Services. Faculty may also consider granting students an incomplete grade to allow an opportunity to fulfill course requirements, such as through independent study or by attending class lectures the following semester. It is the responsibility of the student to initiate requests of this nature with their individual instructor(s), and the responsibility of the faculty member to consider requests on a case-by-case basis.

Essential Course Requirements

The Office for Civil Rights has provided the following guidelines when determining if attendance is an essential course requirement:

  • What does the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance?
  • To what extent is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves?
  • Do student contributions in class constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  • Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method of learning?
  • To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class constitute a significant loss of the educational experience of other students in the class?
  • What elements of the course is are used to calculate the final course grade?

In general, courses that involve significant interaction, in-class participation, or whose content mastery is reliant on attendance may limit what adjustment options are available. Examples of these courses may include:

  • Labs
  • Practicums
  • Internships
  • Foreign language learning
  • Math
  • Public speaking/communications

 The ultimate decision regarding absences and the resulting influence attendance has on grades is at the discretion of the instructor after a comprehensive examination of the essential course requirements. When attendance is not essential to course requirements, instructors are encouraged to make reasonable considerations. However, when absences are believed to affect course integrity, instructors should consult with ODR to determine what course-specific adjustments may be applicable

Student Responsibilities

Students should:

  • Make efforts to attend every course meeting.
  • Complete and stay current with all required coursework, obtaining missed materials/notes due to disability-related absence.
  • Contact faculty and ODR ( prior to the disability-related absences. This expectation is vital if the anticipated absence occurs on a test/quiz day or the day of a deadline for submitting an assignment. For emergencies or unexpected disability-related absences, students must inform faculty and ODR as soon as possible.
  • Consider their disability related needs when choosing courses and developing a class schedule, for example, scheduling classes at a certain time of day, scheduling breaks between classes, etc.
  • Carefully review the syllabus for each course to learn the essential course requirements and the attendance requirements.
  • Complete a Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Arrangement with faculty for every course and submit to ODR.
  • Understand that even with reasonable attendance adjustments, grades and content mastery could be negatively impacted by not attending class.