As the designated public liberal arts institution within the UNC system, UNC Asheville believes regular class attendance to be central to the learning process of the vast majority of its courses and programs of study. UNC Asheville’s Catalog states, “Students are responsible for regular class attendance.” In addition, the University Mission Statement includes the following: “Our practice of the liberal arts emphasizes the centrality of learning and discovery through exemplary teaching, innovative scholarship, creative expression, co-curricular activities, undergraduate research, engaged service, and practical experience…UNC Asheville offers a liberal arts education characterized by high quality faculty-student interaction.” [Emphasis added]
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.
Students failing to attend the first session of any class may be administratively dropped by the instructor; however, this is at the discretion of the instructor. It is each student’s responsibility to notify the Academic Success Center of any change to their schedule.
The Office of the Dean of Students within Student Affairs is designated office to notify faculty of absences due to acute events such as surgeries, hospitalizations, or death of an immediate family member.
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 Academic Accessibility may determine Reasonable Attendance Adjustments as a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable Attendance Adjustments do not permit unlimited absences and are not intended to be applied retroactively. 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 OAA or non-disability related absences are not subject to reasonable attendance adjustments.
The University can often 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.
In most cases, class attendance is critical to a student’s mastery of the knowledge and skills that are taught in a specific course and students are expected to follow the attendance policy established by the instructor in each class. It is not reasonable for the University to fundamentally alter, waive or lower essential course requirements, academic standards, or educational experiences/outcomes when attempting to accommodate course absences.
Some options that may be considered as a reasonable adjustment for an absence:
- Assigning comparable alternate work.
- Altering timelines for coursework and tests.
- Allowing attendance to repeat lectures given in other course sections.
- Allowing review of missed materials during office hours.
- Allowing missed material/notes to be obtained from a classmate.
- Attendance to class remotely (such as Zoom).
A Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Plan should be completed for each course. Students may complete these forms with faculty or OAA can facilitate the completion to establish course requirements, the impact of absences and potential attendance alternatives. A copy must be submitted to OAA for review if completed with between faculty and student to determine final course specific adjustments related to attendance. OAA will notify the student and faculty of the final approved adjustments for the course. If the Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Plan is not completed and submitted to OAA then course specific attendance adjustments will not be approved and OAA will not monitor disability related absences.
Excessive absences, even with an approved OAA attendance accommodation, may result in a fundamental alteration of the course, and withdrawal may be recommended. Faculty may also consider granting students an incomplete grade to allow an opportunity to fulfill course requirements.. 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 (OCR) 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 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:
- Foreign language learning
- 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 OAA to determine what course-specific adjustments may be applicable
- Consider 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 Plan with faculty for every course and submit to OAA once the Accommodation Plan has been requested for faculty via the online module so that course specific adjustments can be determined.
- Make an effort to attend every course meeting.
- Contact faculty and OAA (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 OAA as soon as possible.
- Complete and stay current with all required coursework, obtaining missed materials/notes due to disability-related absence.
- Understand that even with reasonable attendance adjustments, grades and content mastery could be negatively impacted by not attending class.
- Contact OAA if there is concern after discussing attendance adjustments with faculty.
- Clearly examine essential course requirements
- Have established attendance requirements for their courses stated via the syllabus.
- Faculty should closely examine essential course requirements, and consult with OAA to determine reasonable course specific adjustments.
- Communicate and document how to implement the OAA approved course adjustments with their students
- Faculty have the responsibility to engage in the interactive process by completing the Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Plan