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Student wants to be excused from class because . . .

AmesieAmesie Posts: 811Registered User Member
edited December 2012 in Parent Cafe
he has a "medical condition that makes it uncomfortable for him to sit for long periods."

Just wondering what you all would do in this situation. I had a student come talk to me today because he is close to reaching the limit on unpenalized absences in my class. Fortunately for me this is a problem that my dean will have to deal with--I give students a set number of unpenalized absences (5 per semester; actually this is a department policy). Because 5 is a pretty generous number of absences, we don't distinguish between excused or unexcused absences.

My suggestion to the student was that he was welcome to stand up in the back of the room whenever he felt that would be more comfortable, but he said he wouldn't want to do that. I thought that was curious but as a professor I probably have a skewed view . . . would you come to class and stand up, or would you skip?
Post edited by Amesie on
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Replies to: Student wants to be excused from class because . . .

  • GladGradDadGladGradDad Posts: 2,794Registered User Senior Member
    I think if this was a real 'condition', which is suspect, he should stand. Lots of people do that in long meetings at work. I'll do it at times and I don't have any medical conditions.

    When he leaves your class due to being uncomfortable my guess is he ends up either sitting or standing somewhere anyway so there's no reason he couldn't do that in your class.

    Do you suppose he has documentation from a doc for this? Is it noted with the disabilities office?

    Really, we can't know for sure without knowing the details. It could be bogus and he just wants to skip out or it could be real with some kind of real medical condition.
  • reddoorreddoor Posts: 108Registered User Junior Member
    Amesie, I think you are genuine in your interest and desire to understand what is acceptable levels of completing the requirements for a class. I have chronically ill children who do everything they can to sit through a class. For one of them it was impossible for her last semester of college. Professors did not care nor did the dean. And so I am of two minds.

    If this is legitimate, then if they understand and learn the material their grades are a reflection of tests and papers not facetime in a room with you. Learning the material is learning the material. If they can demonstrate this and have a serious medical or physical condition that requires them to miss time in class. So what.

    If this is not legitimate, then you dock them. Nothing undermines the real issues of chronically ill people more than those who ask for sympathy and special favors and do not deserve it.
  • AmesieAmesie Posts: 811Registered User Member
    I am assuming that the condition is real, for purposes of my question. The dean gets to ask for documentation if she thinks a medical waiver is possibly warranted. I was just wondering whether I was being obtuse about this, and that no one else would think it is reasonable to suggest that a student stand in class.
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,430Registered User Senior Member
    I have dealt with medical issues of my own and seen other friends deal with it as well. Documentation, documentation, documentation. If he has a real medical problem and wants an accommodation for it, he needs to bring a note from a doctor. If he cannot or will not do so, then what proof do you have that he needs accommodation and is not simply skipping class as so many struggling students will do?
  • AmesieAmesie Posts: 811Registered User Member
    If this is legitimate, then if they understand and learn the material their grades are a reflection of tests and papers not facetime in a room with you. Learning the material is learning the material. If they can demonstrate this and have a serious medical or physical condition that requires them to miss time in class. So what.

    reddoor, I am sorry about your kids' illnesses. The difficulty with this argument is that by not being in class, students miss particpation in class discussion, which deprives them of the opportunity to hear other students' points of view and also deprives other students of the opportunity to hear the missing student's point of view. So in my mind, it's not just a matter of "learning the material." (I should say that I teach a social science, so the physics or math professor might have a different outlook.)
  • sseamomsseamom Posts: 2,234Registered User Senior Member
    My sister was in a car accident around college age causing a back injury that pretty much made it impossible for her to sit OR stand for any great length of time. Exchanging one for the other would not have alleviated her pain.

    I'm with reddoor. Unless you're saying that grades are based on attendance, which isn't the same as excused/unexcused absences, then, if the student HAS a medical condition, he should get the grades due him based on his WORK. Somehow I got through college without a class where attendance was mandatory. I'm rather glad-I thought that kind of thing got left back in high school.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Posts: 4,448Registered User Senior Member
    As a long time adjunct, I have had a variety of attendance policies. They have evolved to my current approach, which I call the "I'm not your mother" policy.

    College students are (ostensibly) adults. They are not required to be in college at all. They are paying (or someone is) to be there. If they don't go to class and fail as a result, well that's a life lesson in itself, but it's not my issue. They have to make the choice to go to class or not to. They choose to study or not to. As an undergrad, I generally tried not to miss class. As a grad student I occasionally had courses for which attendance at class was truly a waste of time.

    (Point taken on the subject, since I teach physics and/or math classes. Not sure I would have a different policy even if it were something else - I'm still not their mother :). )
  • reddoorreddoor Posts: 108Registered User Junior Member
    Alright Amesie, I will bite once more. And remember I told you I have children with chronic illness who attend college and kill themselves to get to class. Let's pretend for no real reason this kid has the same problem my girls do. They struggle and do everything to never miss a class. Things have progressed so far that they have to try to fill ln the prof without letting on too much what is going on. They try to be professional and perhaps a little obtuse. Because it is embarrassing a little humiliating to their pride.
    But they do it. And then prof sends them a note that says hey don't sit stand. And so now they have to go into detail about what their issues are. All of their privacy is gone. Most of their dignity will be gone as well.

    I guess I could be more graphic and tell you what they face and how they endure. But they will never tell. They will take the C+ or C- rather than have to tell you that they are up all night with diarrhea, they leave class because they can't control their bowels and no one should have to stay in a class with soiled pants. And then they begin to worry if I go to class will I soil myself again and who will notice.


    So be kind. Be generous and think of how you would feel if someone you loved were struggling and the most compassionate response they received form a professor was why don't you stand .
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Posts: 4,448Registered User Senior Member
    I realized that I didn't really address your issue, given that you have a policy in place and a student who wants leave to violate it at will. Thinking about it, I would probably suggest that he do his best to come to class every period and just leave quietly at whatever point he is uncomfortable. He hasn't said that he is unable to sit at all. Perhaps he is usually ok for 20 minutes or so. That's better than nothing, if he is able to leave discreetly without disrupting the rhythm of the rest of the class.

    If he were to proceed along these lines, I would then take no (public) notice whatsoever of his early departures.
  • GladGradDadGladGradDad Posts: 2,794Registered User Senior Member
    Do you have any idea what this student does in other classes - does he stay the duration or does he cut out early on those as well? If he only does it for your class it's a big red flag.
    back injury that pretty much made it impossible for her to sit OR stand for any great length of time
    I assume that she did about the only other thing then - went somewhere where she could lay down. I wonder what the OP's student does when he leaves the class - i.e. if he goes and sits/stands elsewhere or if he returns to the dorm to lie down.
    think it is reasonable to suggest that a student stand in class
    It might be reasonable and might not - it totally depends on what the actual condition is. Without knowing that I don't see how you can know the answer to the question.
    by not being in class, students miss particpation in class discussion, which deprives them of the opportunity to hear other students' points of view and also deprives other students of the opportunity to hear the missing student's point of view.
    Have you considered recording the class for those who are absent? If a big concern is the ability to hear the discussions of the other students in class then maybe recording the class to video would be beneficial. I know some profs at some colleges do this.
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,430Registered User Senior Member
    There are two competing issues here. As the instructor, it is up to you to determine the importance of class participation, and the student is certainly due reasonable accommodation for a medical condition. Balancing them requires an understanding of the condition and what the student can accommodate. But ultimately, if participation is important, then it is important - the student needs to either find a way to be there in the room (standing, sitting, teleconference, whatever) or else they need to be in a different class.

    If their medical condition genuinely prohibits this, and if the class is both essential and not offered in a non-participatory format, then I think it falls into the category of exceptional accommodation, and should require both documentation and the involvement of someone in one of the advising or Dean's offices - it is not necessary for the student to reveal the particulars of their condition to YOU, but they need to have an informed advocate on the staff.
  • cobratcobrat Posts: 7,516Registered User Senior Member
    As someone who has done a few stints as a substitute lecturer at a community college for a friend who had a family emergency on short notice and as an undergrad/grad student saw the many tricks slacking or otherwise unmotivated students attempted/used to get out of class participation requirements, assignments, and/or to get extremely long extensions on assignments.....I'd insist on documentation for me or for them to be vouched by the Dean's and Disabilities Office before I even think about granting them the exception.

    If a student wants an accommodation based on a disability, he/she needs to demonstrate documented proof either to me as the instructor and/or to the Dean's/Disability Offices responsible for arranging those accommodations.

    I'd think this would not only be a departmental/school-wide requirement, but also a way for the instructor and said student if his/her disability is documented to be protected against possible complaints of perceived unwarranted favoritism/special treatment by other students in the class.

    Questions/concerns/complaints related to perceived fairness for the rest of the class could arise, especially in academic fields/schools where competition for grades is fierce. Something to think about as an instructor for a given class has a duty to ensure equitable and fair treatment and grading for ALL students in the class.
  • sseamomsseamom Posts: 2,234Registered User Senior Member
    "I assume that she did about the only other thing then - went somewhere where she could lay down. "

    Yes, that's what she did. After a year (of not working) she was able to work up to being on her feet or in a chair for longer periods, but her back has never been the same.
  • mimk6mimk6 Posts: 4,118Registered User Senior Member
    Before I got to reddoor's post, my first thought was that the difficulty sitting was really code for some kind of illness such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and that the student is embarrassed and doesn't want to go into specifics. This person may have a sudden need to use the bathroom. I could be completely wrong, but sometimes people have real issues and don't feel they can go into specifics.
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,430Registered User Senior Member
    I could be completely wrong, but sometimes people have real issues and don't feel they can go into specifics.
    And sometimes they are just trying desperately to make it seem like it isn't their fault. This is why documentation is important. If it is too embarassing or problematic to give specifics, they can ask their doctor for a letter explaining what their limitations are without specifying the ailment, and see if the department will keep that on file. If it comes on letterhead and can be confirmed as originating with a licensed physician, it might fly while still maintaining their dignity as much as possible. But there are too many shady students to give someone such a big free pass without some kind of proof.
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