Wasting the first five minutes of class for the professor to take attendance can be tedious, but since the attendance policy’s implementation, the university has considered it a powerful tool for keeping freshmen from flunking out.
The attendance policy, which was implemented in the fall of 2006 and only applied to 100-level classes, has positively impacted student attendance in the classroom and academics. Judy Grimes, dean of student affairs, also agrees that the policy has been helpful for both students and faculty.
“There were concerns from the federal government about trying to track attendance of students who were receiving federal dollars,” Grimes said. “The research shows that students, who attend class, do better.”
Now expanded to include both 100-level and 200-level classes, the policy states that any absence a student wishes to be excused from requires documentation. A funeral can be accompanied by a service program; a trip to the emergency room can be excused with a doctor’s note. But with the sudden outbreak of the H1N1 virus and a few reported cases on campus, the administration has changed certain aspects of the policy.
“We didn’t waive the attendance policy; we just temporarily modified it to this particular incident,” Grimes said. “We are asking faculty, in this instance, to not require documentation from a doctor or a nurse or from the health center that they are indeed at home with the flu.”
The Center for Disease Control has asked that universities adopt this policy in regards to attendance to prevent the spread of the H1N1 strain of influenza to other students and faculty. Provost Jeanne Daffron commented.
“Students should still notify their faculty (preferably by e-mail) that they are ill and they will not be required to provide a doctor’s note to have the absence excused,” Daffron said. “Excused absences do not impact the attendance policy. Students are expected to complete all work missed and are responsible for all course content.”
Students are expected to also e-mail their advisers before they miss the class. Once self-diagnosed, students should isolate themselves for at least 48 hours.
Students that are self-isolating on campus can request to receive food through Aramark so they do not have to leave their room. Residence hall assistants have also been trained in certain healthcare procedures, such as how to read disposable thermometers, to reduce the amount of contamination and to inspect the health of students.
Tim Kissock, risk manager for the university said that there have been three confirmed cases of H1N1 strain of influenza on campus. Kissock also stated that the symptoms, in some cases, are so mild that students may not even know they have it.
“It is also our understanding that the incubation period on this is somewhere to an excess of three-to-four days,” Kissock said. “So chances are that by the time your roommate has it, you’ve probably been exposed to it by the time your roommate knows it.”
Jason Baker, professor of biology, believes that the H1N1 strain of influenza is being over exaggerated by the media. He still feels that influenza in general should be a concern regarding the attendance policy.
“Just like for any influenza, isolation is an excellent approach to limiting spread,” Baker said. “Most influenza cases are self-limiting with plenty of rest and hydration. Therefore, it is unlikely medical documentation will be obtained by all students, regardless of the influenza strain.”
The administration offices assured that the changes made to the attendance policy regarding the CDC guidelines will remain in effect as long as the H1N1 strain continues to be a problem.
“Like all influenza virus transmission, we are certainly likely to see higher incidence in the winter months as people are spending more time indoors and face-to-face,” Baker said.
Even though the H1N1 strain seems to be an outbreak and is affecting regular campus activity, Kissock said that the university is not considering making the vaccine mandatory for all students and faculty.
“We are in discussions with the county health department that if the flu vaccine becomes available and if we get enough of them, we would like to offer flu shot clinics,” Kissock said.