While many students are already packing their suitcases for New Orleans in anticipation of Michigan’s appearance in the Sugar Bowl, some University departments and colleges have determined they will not alter their attendance policies for students planning on missing the first day of classes.
The Sugar Bowl — which will be played on Jan. 3, one day before classes begin— has presented an unusual predicament for department chairs and professors in determining if students who miss class should be granted admission into courses. While some individual professors are ruminating over whether or not to punish students for missing the first day, departments and schools that require attendance on the first day of classes are standing firm in not altering their policies.
LSA Dean Terrence McDonald wrote in an e-mail to the student body that even though this year’s break is shorter than in past years — there are only 12 days between the last day of exams and the first day of winter semester — departments should not exempt students from attending classes on Jan. 4, no matter the reason.
“Students planning to miss class on January 4 are not to be automatically excused from class attendance,” McDonald wrote. “As always units and instructors have the authority to interpret and apply these general College policies.”
As of Dec. 16, the University had sold 14,953 tickets from its allocation of 17,500 seats, according to Steve Lambright, director of ticket operations. About 2,600 of those tickets sold are student tickets, Lambright said.
The official LSA policy states professors can give away class spots if students don’t attend the first session of a biology, chemistry or physical laboratory. Seats are also open to those on the waitlist if a student misses either of the first two meetings for class in the Department of English, any of the first four meetings of a class in the Department of Romance Languages and the first two meetings in other departments.
Susan Douglas, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, wrote in an e-mail interview that the department would not be able to hold spots for students who will miss class on Jan. 4 due to the game. She wrote that the policy ensures fairness to students on the waitlist.
“We are not altering our policy for the Sugar Bowl, as doing so privileges those students who can afford to go and thus has the potential to engender class, race and income-based inequities,” Douglas wrote. “We are committed to treating all students equally; indeed we have to, especially given how many are trying to get into our classes.”
Despite the official policy, some LSA departments are in the process of determining whether or not to make an exception for the Sugar Bowl — like the Department of Romance Languages, which is deferring to the judgment of its language program coordinators.
However, Helene Neu, director of the Elementary French Program, wrote in an e-mail interview that she and her colleagues had not yet discussed whether to waive the policy mandating that students attend the first classes, but would do so soon.
Still, some LSA professors have made their own decisions about attendance policy, like Psychology Prof. Colleen Seifert, chair of student academic affairs in the Department of Psychology.
Seifert said she received e-mails from several of her students telling her they will not be in her class on Jan. 4 and she is encouraging other students to do the same. She acknowledged the importance of the game to students, and is asking students attending to confirm if they want to remain in the course.
“I understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to be at your team’s bowl game,” Seifert said she told them. “And that’s your decision to make. I’m not putting any judgment on you for choosing which way you choose.”
She added that attending the first day of classes is ultimately the student’s decision to make.
“It’s up to the student, as an adult, to weigh the value of their attendance in class and their other needs, like cheaper airfare or seeing their family or going to the Sugar Bowl,” she said. “That’s the student’s choice and responsibility.”
The College of Engineering does not have a policy requiring attendance on the first day of classes. James Holloway, assistant dean of undergraduate education at the College of Engineering, said that at most a few hundred Engineering students would miss class on the first day of the semester.
However, he said professors will individually be able to determine how to reprimand students who are not there. He said he did not expect many professors to rule that missing class would be grounds for dropping the student from the course.
“It’s tremendous that the team is going to get to go play at the Sugar Bowl, and it’s great that there’s a lot of enthusiasm around that, but it really is just another of the many co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities that students face,” he said. “We have students who miss classes for job interviews, to go work on special projects, to be part of athletic events.”