FAQs for Faculty
When was the University’s Class Attendance Policy updated?
The Class Attendance Policy for enrolled students at UNC Chapel Hill was updated in February 2018 when Faculty Council passed Resolution 2018-1 (On Amending the Policy on University Approved Absences). The policy explains what constitutes a University Approved Absence and requires instructors to provide a reasonable accommodation to allow students a fair and equitable experience in the course.
What is different about the Class Attendance Policy?
The intent of the policy is to comply with the law and to provide a fair learning experience for students with a University Approved Absence.
The purpose of the policy is not to limit a professor’s ability to work with a student on any absence, even those included in the policy. It is simply to provide extra advocacy for students who experience an absence that meets the criteria of the 3 categories noted in the policy.
Do my students need a University Approved Absence every time they miss class?
No. Instructors should not ask students for a University Approved Absence every time they miss class. Instructors have the authority to make academic adjustments without official notice from the University Approved Absence Office. It is not required for professors to receive a University Approved Absence notification to work with a student.
Can instructors work independently with students on their class absence?
Yes. Instructors have the authority to work directly with students on their absence regardless if it falls under the criteria of a University Approved Absence. We encourage instructors to work directly with students whenever possible.
Does the policy apply to every class absence?
No. The policy does not apply to every class absence, but only three specific categories of absences intended for use only in very limited circumstances as outlined below from the Class Attendance Policy:
- Authorized university activities
- Disability/religious observance/pregnancy, as required by law and approved by Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC)
- Significant health conditions and/or personal family emergencies as approved by the Dean of Students, Gender Violence Service Coordinators, and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office
What are examples of significant health conditions?
Examples of significant health conditions may include (but are not limited to):
- Emergency surgery, hospitalization, severe communicable diseases that require isolation (i.e. measles, mumps, tuberculosis, varicella), a severe injury/condition that affects mobility and/or cognition, or acute exacerbation of a chronic mental health issue.
What are examples of personal or family emergencies?
Examples of a personal emergency/family emergency may include (but are not limited to):
- the death or acute onset of a life-threatening illness of an immediate family member, direct exposure to or involvement in a current or recently occurring personal traumatic event, or a dramatic and sudden change to life circumstances.
Do students need a University Approved Absence for common and expected health issues (e.g. flu, viruses, strep throat, RSV, migraines etc.)?
No. The UAAO authorizes University Approved Absences for significant health conditions and/or personal/family emergencies that require the student to be absent for a period of time (generally 5 or more days), not for common illnesses. This policy does not change an instructor’s authority over class attendance related to students with commonly occurring or other requests to miss class.
When students have common illnesses, professors have the authority to work directly with them on their absence request. University Approved Absences are reserved for significant health conditions and flu-like symptoms generally do not meet the criteria. We encourage professors to consider absence needs due to symptomatic common illnesses and work directly with students when possible.
My student informed me they are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, what should I tell them to do?
Faculty have the authority to provide flexibility to students who are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and need diagnostic testing or medical help without notification from the UAAO.
As of May 11, 2023, Covid-19 is no longer classified a public health emergency according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Covid-19 continues to be a societal challenge that is considered endemic. Effective August 21, 2023, for purposes of UAAs, Covid-19 will be treated similarly to other respiratory or gastrointestinal illnesses.
- Students with positive Covid-19 test results will not automatically qualify for a UAA. See this resource for more information: Absences related to Covid-19.
- Mild-to-moderate symptoms- not eligible for UAAs : Students should work directly with their instructors to navigate school-related absences due to COVID-19 and other short-term illnesses with mild-to-moderate symptoms.
- Severe symptoms- may be eligible for UAAs: Students who are experiencing severe and/or long-term illness, including Covid-19 symptoms that are severe and prolonged, should contact their medical provider or Campus Health at 919-966-2281 to schedule an appointment or schedule an appointment online for a medical evaluation and a diagnostic test. Rapid tests are also available for purchase at the Healthy Heels Shoppe, Student Stores Pharmacy, and the “Healthy Heels to Go” vending machines.
- If a student feels the instructor is not providing a reasonable alternative regarding class absences, the student is encouraged to follow up with the chair of the department or the chair’s designee.
My student has been told by a medical professional they need to isolate, does this qualify for UAAs?
Students who test positive for severe communicable diseases such as measles, mumps, tuberculosis, varicella are eligible for a University Approved Absence for any classes missed during their isolation period.
On occasion, students may be asked by a health provider to limit their activities while waiting for test results. This does not require a University Approved Absence and faculty should be working with these students on an individual basis. Only students who test positive for severe communicable diseases will be issued University Approved Absences for their isolation period.
Not every student in isolation may want or need UAAs (for example, if a student feels well enough to attend classes remotely or if you are working directly with a student to excuse an absence without notification from the UAAO).
Routine testing does not qualify for a University Approved Absence.
Students must submit documentation that supports their request and provide enough information for the UAAO to determine if the request meets the qualifications of a University Approved Absence. Letters from providers that only list absence dates are not considered sufficient documentation. Requiring documentation ensures that absence requests meet the high bar that is intended by the policy and ensures that students are connected with ongoing support for these significant situations. Documentation must be submitted within 10 business days following the last date of absence. If documentation is not submitted within 10 business days following the last date of absence, the request will be denied.
Will I be informed why my student has a University Approved Absence?
No. You will simply receive a notification from the UAAO that a student has a University Approved Absence for the dates listed in the notification.
How are authorized university activities determined?
University authorized activities are determined by the Educational Policy Committee. The Educational Policy Committee is comprised of elected faculty. For more information regarding the EPC, please visit the Office of Faculty Governance website.
What are examples of authorized university activities?
Authorized university activities include those activities that require a student’s participation on particular dates when representing the University, such as student body president at a national student government conference or NCAA varsity sports.
Currently, notifications for NCAA events are still being sent from the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. The plan is for all University Approved Absence notifications to come from a single source, the University Approve Absence Office, to improve clarity and efficiency.
Examples of activities that are not considered University Approved Absences:
- Conferences and activities associated with student activities
- Presentations at local and regional conferences that are not invited
- Networking events
- Graduate school interviews
- Olympic trials
- Travel by an entire class to visit a research site, conference, etc.
While these events do not fall under the criteria for a UAA, they can still be legitimate reasons for students to be absent. Faculty are encouraged to work with students on absences that are not University approved.
Does this policy change how I and other instructors work with students who need to miss class?
The policy does not change existing faculty approaches to working with students who will miss class for reasons not included in the three categories. As stated in the policy:
“Instructors may work with students to meet attendance needs that do not fall within university approved absences. For situations when an absence is not university approved (e.g., a job interview or club activity), instructors determine their own approach to missed classes and make-up assessments and assignments.”
How long does it take to process a UAA Request?
The University Approved Absence Office reviews requests as promptly as possible. While it usually does not take more than 3 business days to review requests, request reviews may take up to 10 business days for review of requests and consultation with other departments as appropriate. If a request is approved, faculty are required to work with students as noted under the Class Attendance Policy.
What resources are available to faculty to make reasonable accommodations for students with an approved absence?
To assist instructors in making reasonable accommodations the university offers the Undergraduate Testing Center. The Center for Faculty Excellence provides teaching and learning resources regarding effective learning assessments.
Alternative exam/make-up activities:
- Flexibility with boundaries
- CFE Consultations
- UNC Keep Teaching Digital Strategies Exams & Assessments
- UNC Keep Teaching Help Forum