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UA Spanish department adjusts attendance policy to pre-pandemic standards

University+of+Arizona+students+wait+for+their+psychology+class+to+start+in+a+lecture+hall+Thursday%2C+March+31%2C+2022.+After+years+of+having+more+leniency+with+attendance+due+to+the+pandemic%2C+some+UA+professors+are+starting+to+switch+back+to+pre-pandemic+standards.
Caitlin Claypool
University of Arizona students wait for their psychology class to start in a lecture hall Thursday, March 31, 2022. After years of having more leniency with attendance due to the pandemic, some UA professors are starting to switch back to pre-pandemic standards.

As the COVID-19 lockdown becomes a more distant memory for many, some University of Arizona faculty are beginning to tighten up attendance policies in an attempt to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

One notable change is in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, particularly in the four unit, four day a week Spanish courses. 

Cassidy Reis, interim director of the Spanish language program, explained how attendance policies changed throughout the pandemic. 

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the absence and attendance policy was that students were allowed five absences for a four day week class,” Reis said. “Attendance was not mandatory throughout the year of 2021, at least for the fall semester. Going into the spring, we adopted the 10 permitted absences to try to encourage more class attendance.” 

The 10-absence policy was in place throughout the 2022-23 academic year. However, this year’s policy reduced the number of allowed absences from 10 days to six. After a student has missed six days of class, they will receive a 1% grade point deduction per additional day missed, up to a maximum of a 20% deduction

The policy change comes in lieu of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s changing guidelines about isolation periods. 

Reis explained, “the number of days in which anyone that tests positive for COVID has to stay in isolation changed from 10 days to five days,” referring to the CDC guidelines, noting the policy change is “in order to return, as much as we can, to before the pandemic, even though COVID-19 is here to stay in many ways.”

The updated guidelines were not the only reason behind changing the attendance policy, either.

“Without regular class participation and contact with the language, the skill level of the students was significantly impacted,” Reis said. “We were seeing a significant drop of students actually attending class when attendance was not mandatory. I had classes in which the maximum number of students were enrolled, and on many days there would sometimes only be three to six students.”

The policy goal of the department seems to be to find an acceptable balance between student wellness and student achievement. 

“As the faculty in charge of assessing students that are on the path to developing [their Spanish skills], we want to make sure that they are gaining as much contact with the language as possible,” Reis said. “It’s certainly not meant to penalize or create any barrier to students with life circumstances or health concerns.” 

Executive Director of Campus Health David Salafsky discussed the impact of policies on students choosing whether to attend class while sick. 

“Being judicious about sick days and making sure you save them for when you really need them is important. I think most everybody is going to want to protect themselves and others by staying home, but when grades come into the mix I could see it going the other way,” Salafsky said. 

UA students who miss more than six days of Spanish classes due to illness or extenuating circumstances can appeal to the Dean of Students office to potentially be granted additional absences without penalty and extensions on assignments. The website advises students to report absences ahead of time and to provide documentation for missing class. In the case of illness, this would be a doctor’s note. These appeals are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

“Going into fall and cold and flu season, especially with COVID-19 in the mix, it’s important that students preserve [the] number of days that they get to play with in terms of missing class and making sure that they’re doing everything they can for their health and well-being,” Salafsky said. “Getting your flu shot every year, making sure you’re up to date on your COVID vaccines, making sure to get vaccinated against meningitis […] all of the things we can control, those are the things we have to do.” 

It is unclear if other departments will follow suit with the Spanish department and adjust their policies accordingly.

For those interested in taking preventative measures for the cold and flu season, resources regarding immunizations can be found on the Campus Health website.


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