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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

New University-approved attendance policy emphasizes clarity, equity and accountability

Joy Renner

A new class attendance policy and University-approved absence policy will be supported by a central office for handling UAAs that will offer in one place legal references and resources about how a UAA is approved and communicated.

The new policy, which Faculty Council approved unanimously on Feb. 9, replaces a 60-year-old policy that needed updating because it was vague and no longer suited to meet the needs of a changing student population, said Joy Renner, the member of the Educational Policy Committee who presented the merits of the policy proposal to council members before the vote.

The new policy emphasizes clarity, equity and accountability, Renner added.

When considering University-approved absences, Renner said, the policy is meant to balance the rights of students and instructors. Students have the right to be evaluated fairly; at the same time, instructors have the right to maintain reasonable expectations related to making accommodations for absences.

What did not change was the authority that faculty have to maintain decision-making in the classroom, which means they will be able to allow excused absences above what is in the policy, Renner said. Course and classroom policies should be communicated through the course syllabus on the first day of class.

In other business at the Faculty Council’s February meeting, Tinu Diver, associate director of the Office of Ethics Education and Policy Management, gave a report to Faculty Council on the new office, why it was created and some of the challenges that lie ahead.

The idea for the office came from the Chancellor’s Working Group on Policy and Procedures Report and Recommendations in February 2016. Kim Strom-Gottfried,  the School of Social Work’s Smith P. Theimann Jr. Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Professional Practice, has been the University’s director of ethics education and policy management since August 2016. Diver joined the office in January 2017.

Diver said many of the challenges that the office faces stem from the fact that universities operate in a decentralized and sometimes disconnected manner.

As a result, some University policies can be hard to find because they are not widely communicated, which can result in inconsistent policy implementation. Another challenge is identifying “undocumented” policies that may exist that have not been vetted.

“Our charge is to play a guiding and supportive role in making policies more consistent, available and effective,” said Diver, who views the office as a hub to both connect and communicate policies.

Another core principle of the office is its orientation toward service, she added. For example, the office serves as a resource for units and departments that are considering new policies because it can share benchmarks from peer universities in a range of policy areas.