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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.  Please share this information with all instructors in your division/department.

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.

Will my students need a University Approved Absence every time they miss class?

No.  Instructors are not required to 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 in order 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 when possible.

Does the policy apply to every class absence?

The updated policy DOES NOT apply to every class absence.  There are three specific categories of approved absences as described in the current University Catalog:

  1. Authorized university activities
  2. 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)
  3. Significant health condition and/or personal/family emergency as approved by the Dean of Students, Gender Violence Service Coordinators, and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

What are examples of significant health conditions and personal or family emergency?

Examples of a significant health condition may include (but are not limited to):

  • emergency surgery, hospitalization, communicable diseases that require isolation, a severe injury/condition that affects mobility and/or cognition, or acute exacerbation of a chronic mental health issue.

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 from the UAAO for common and expected health issues (e.g. flu season)?

No.  Students do not need a University Approved Absence for common and expected health issues.  The UAAO authorizes University Approved Absences due to significant health conditions and/or personal/family emergencies that require the student to be absent for a period of time.  This policy does not change an instructor’s authority over class attendance related to students with commonly occurring illnesses or minor injuries (i.e. strep throat, migraines, upper respiratory infection, ear infection, cold, stomach bugs, pink eye, sprained ankle, etc.), seasonal illness, or other requests to miss class.

When students have common illnesses like the flu, professors have the authority to work with them on their absence.  University Approved Absences are reserved for significant health conditions, and flu like symptoms do not always meet the criteria.  We encourage professors to take into account common illnesses and work directly with students when possible.

The University Approved Absence Office does not approve of commonly occurring illness such as colds, ear infections, migraines, upper respiratory infections, strep throat, stomach bugs, pink eye, sprained ankles and the like.  While the UAAO cannot approve absences for these commonly occurring illnesses, that does not mean students may be ill and need to miss classIt means students need to work directly with their professors on these absences as noted in the Class Attendance Policy.

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 are in need of diagnostic testing or medical help without notification from the UAAO.

Students should use the Campus Health screening tool to assess their status every day. Campus Health can be reached through the Healthy Heels Patient Portal or by calling 919-966-2281. Campus Health provides symptomatic COVID-19 testing for students, graduate and professional students and post-doctoral fellows.

Undergraduate students who are on-campus, attending in-person classes or coming to campus must monitor your symptoms daily.  If students answer yes to any of these symptoms, immediately contact Campus Health.

Graduate, professional and post-doctoral students are expected to monitor their symptoms daily. If students answer yes to any of these symptoms, immediately contact Campus Health.

COVID-19 Community Standards symptom list:
• Have you had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
• Do you have new muscle aches not related to another medical condition or another specific activity (e.g., due to physical exercise)?
• Do you feel like you may have a temperature of greater than 100.0°F?
• Do you have sore throat, runny nose and/or congestion not related to another medical condition (e.g., allergies)?
• Do you have a new or worsening cough that is not related to another medical condition?
• Do you have shortness of breath that is not attributable to another medical condition?
• Do you have recent (<5 days) loss of smell and/or taste?
• Do you have new onset of vomiting or diarrhea not related to another medical condition?

If a student answers yes to any of the questions above, they should not attend class, work or other in-person campus activities and contact their medical provider. 

Students can access Campus Health at 919-966-2281 or via the Healthy Heels Patient Portal.

My student has been told by a medical professional they need to quarantine or isolate, does this qualify for UAAs?

Faculty have the authority to provide flexibility to students who are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and are in need of diagnostic testing or medical help without notification from the UAAO.

Any student asked or required to quarantine or isolate due to Covid-19 is eligible for a University Approved Absence for any classes missed.  If a student has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and/or instructed to isolate or quarantine by a medical professional, and this inhibits their ability to attend classes in-person or complete coursework, they can submit a request to the University Approved Absence Office (UAAO) for University Approved Absences (UAA)

It is a student’s choice to request UAAs and not every student in isolation or quarantine may want or need them (for example, if the student feels well enough to attend classes remotely, or if a faculty member is working with a student directly to excuse their absence without notification from the UAAO).

On occasion, students may be asked by Campus Health to limit their activities instead of being told to quarantine or isolate.  This does not require a University Approved Absence and faculty should be working with these students on an individual basis.

Please note that UAA’s apply only to class absences, not to employment.  Make sure to have students reach out to their work supervisor to let them know they will be unable to work.  If you are a part-time, full-time, or temporary employee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, you can contact the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic.

Documentation Requirements

To minimize a student’s need to provide additional documentation about their quarantine or isolation, Campus Health will work directly with the University Approved Absence Office to verify their request.  While their request is being processed, students need to make sure to communicate with their instructors that they will be unable to attend class for the time-period they will be quarantined/isolated.  If a student was seen by an off-campus provider, we ask that they contact Campus Health to let them know of their medically ordered isolation or quarantine.

If a student was seen by an off-campus provider (a non-Campus Health provider), we ask that they contact Campus Health to let them know of their medically ordered isolation or quarantine and submit supporting documentation from their off-campus provider with their request for UAAs.

In order for Covid-19 related absences to be evaluated, students must have been seen by a medical professional and been told to medically isolate or quarantine.  Requests for absences that do not have supporting medical documentation (either from an off-campus provider or from Campus Health) will be denied.  The UAAO does not approve of absences without supporting documentation or verification through Campus Health.  If students do not qualify for a Covid-19 related UAA (i.e. the student did not get evaluated by a medical professional and/or was not told to quarantine or isolate) students will need to discuss their absence from class directly with their instructor.

Routine testing does not qualify for a University Approved Absence.  If a student misses class due to testing, they will need to work directly with their faculty members on their absence.

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?

A subcommittee of the Educational Policy Committee will review requests from groups and organizations for approval of an authorized university activity.  Currently, notifications are still sent from the organizations (which is what occurred prior to the policy revision).  The plan is for all University Approved Absence notifications to come from a single source, the University Approved Absence Office, to improve clarity and efficiency for faculty. In regards to athletics, notifications for UNC NCAA varsity sports will come from the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes.

Examples of activities that are not considered University Approved Absences:

Conference presentations that are not invited
Presentations at local and regional conferences
Graduate school interviews
Olympic trials
Conferences and activities associated with student activities
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 are still legitimate requests by students.  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, please allow up to 10 business days for review of requests and consultation with other departments as appropriate.  So long as students get their absence request submitted to the UAAO in a timely fashion (within 5 business days after the last date of absence), if a request is approved, faculty will be required to work with the student 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.