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Classroom Policies


MSU Attendance Policies

General University Attendance Policy - This policy states in part: "No person is allowed to attend a class unless officially enrolled on a credit or non-credit basis with the appropriate fees paid. Students who attend, participate and strive to complete course requirements without formal enrollment will not receive credit for their work. . . . It is the responsibility of the instructor to define the policy for attendance at the beginning of the course."


Code of Teaching Responsibility and Attendance - The MSU Code of Teaching Responsibility requires an instructor to include in the course syllabus any course attendance policy that differs from the MSU attendance policy--especially if that policy affects student grades. This would necessarily include the instructor's policy on excused absences and make-up assignments.


Administrative Drop for Non-Attendance - In compliance with federal regulations governing financial aid and veterans' education benefits, instructors are required to report students who stop attending or who have never attended class. After the first week of classes, through the middle of the term of instruction, instructors who identify a non-attending student should notify their departmental office. Upon receiving a report of non-attendance, departmental representatives are encouraged to initiate an administrative drop.

Attendance is defined as physical attendance or participation in an academically related activity such as submission of an assignment, an examination, participation in a study group or an online discussion, etc. Instructors who do not take attendance may utilize key assessment points (e.g. projects, papers, mid-term exams, and discussions) as benchmarks for participation.

Students may be dropped from a course for non-attendance by a departmental administrative drop after the fourth class period, or the fifth class day of the term of instruction, whichever occurs first.

Check here to review the "Drop for Non-Attendance" policy.


Final Exam Policy - The university final exam policy allows instructors to impose severe consequences on students who miss a final exam without a "satisfactory explanation"; namely, a failing grade in the course. To avoid such dire action, the policy instructs students "unable to take a final examination because of illness or other reasons over which they have no control" to notify the associate dean of their college immediately. Students should be prepared to document their illness or the extenuating circumstances that caused them to miss the final exam.  Oversleeping usually won't do it.


Common Final Exams for Multi-Section Courses - Instructors sometimes schedule common final exams for multi-section courses, resulting in conflicts with some students' other courses. When this occurs, the university final exam policy states that the instructor of the multi-section course must provide alternative dates for make-up exams.

Scheduling a common test or final exam cannot take place without authorization from unit heads of multi-section courses. Instructors should alert their students to the date of common exams in their course syllabus and in the comment field of the online Schedule of Courses.


Special Consideration Absences

Observance of Religious Holidays - Each fall the Provost issues a memorandum that explains the university Policy on Religious Observance. The policy calls on faculty and staff "to be sensitive to the observance of [religious] holidays so that students who absent themselves from classes on these days are not seriously disadvantaged. . . It is the responsibility of those students who wish to be absent to make arrangements in advance with their instructors. (Read policy.) (Read Provost's and President's memoranda.)

This memorandum also asks instructors to inform their students at the beginning of the semester if their attendance policy, including the dropping of a student's lowest grade, extends to students who miss class to observe a religious holiday.


Participation in Field Trips, Rehearsals and Performances - The University Committee on Academic Policy recommends that instructors cooperate with students who are required to attend university-sanctioned field trips, rehearsals and performances that conflict with other courses.

Instructors requiring these events must, in advance, provide their students who have resulting course conflicts with a letter that verifies the event and the conflict. Students then must present this letter to the instructors of the courses in conflict with the event.

While the university encourages cooperation between faculty to avoid disadvantaging students, requests for both excused absences and permission for students to submit make-up work remain the prerogative of instructors.

 Instructors should include the dates of required field trips, rehearsals and performances in their course syllabi to alert students of possible conflicts and thereby allow the students to plan their class schedules accordingly.


Participation in University-Approved Athletic Competitions - As stated in the MSU Faculty Handbook, student-athletes are excused from classes to participate in university-approved events or competition. Before missing classes, student-athletes must present their instructors with a letter signed by both the director of the Student-Athlete Support Services and the faculty representative to the Athletic Council. These letters confirm the dates and locations of the out-of-town events and, depending on the schedule, may be issued as frequently as once a week. An excused absence does not excuse student-athletes from completing course work missed during their absences.

Some instructors develop attendance policies that allow students to miss a given number of class sessions without penalty or to drop their lowest grade on assignments or tests. Instructors have the discretion to apply -- or not to apply -- these course policies to student-athletes who miss class to participate in university-approved competition. Making exceptions for student-athletes in these situations does not violate NCAA rules. (See "General Advice to Students" below.)


Related Matters

Medical Excuses - Olin Health Center physicians will provide students with a medical excuse only if the student's illness warrants such action (see below). If a student is examined by an Olin health-care provider during the time he/she is ill, the provider will decide at that time if the student is too ill to attend classes. If an excuse is warranted, the provider will specify this on a Patient Instructions form, which the student will receive.

If the course syllabus includes a make-up option, the student would submit this form to his/her instructor in support of a request for an excused absence and an opportunity to make up course work missed during the student's illness.

If the Patient Instructions form does not include a recommendation for an excused absence, it would serve only to document that a student saw an Olin physician on a specific date. The form, then, would not support a request for an excused absence and should not be submitted to an instructor.

Many illnesses take several days to run their normal course and do not necessarily need to be evaluated or treated by a health-care provider -- nor do they require an extended absence from class. Generally, to qualify for an Olin Patient Instructions form with a recommendation for an excused absence, the illness must be severe enough to warrant absence from classes. Students must see an Olin health-care provider when they are ill, not after they have missed a few classes, recovered, and have returned to class. Olin staff will not issue requests for medical excuses after the fact and without examining the student.

Instructors may--or may not--honor an Olin physician's request, or any other physician's request, for an excused absence. This decision should be based on the instructor's attendance and make-up policies, as stated in the course syllabus.

For FAQ's on H1N1, or the swine flu, see http://uphys.msu.edu/index.html


Medical Withdrawal - A student may voluntarily withdraw from the University for any reason through the middle of the semester see https://www.reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Text.asp?Section=112#s498  If a serious medical problem requires you to withdraw from all of your classes after the middle of the semester, failing grades will typically result.  In exceptional circumstances (i.e., unforeseen occurrences that significantly limit a student's ability to withdraw prior to midterm) you can request that no grades be reported.  This request will be reviewed by the Medical Withdrawal Committee.  A withdrawal after the middle of the semester of instruction with no grade reported is an extraordinary remedy and is intended to be applied narrowly.  View the procedure for requesting an exception to the normal University withdrawal policy based on exceptional medical circumstances at http://undergrad.msu.edu/userfiles/file/medwithdrawal/procedure.pdf


Emergencies - Students who face emergencies, such as a death in the family, serious illness of a family member, court appearances, hazardous weather that makes attendance impossible or other situations beyond their control that preclude class attendance should notify their instructors immediately. Academic advisers often assist students in notifying instructors of such emergencies. Even with advanced notice, whether a student will be allowed to make up course work missed because of an emergency will depend on the attendance policy stated in the course syllabus. Different instructors may handle the identical situation differently. Instructors who allow students to complete course work missed when students are absent should clearly inform students what that course work is and when it is due.


Distance Testing - Occasionally, it is necessary for students to take a proctored exam or quiz while they are away from the university.  One resource that meets this need is the international network of Testing Centers certified by the National College Testing Association.  To make arrangements for distance testing, begin by contacting our own Testing Center (517-353-8385) or go to their website (www.testingoffice.msu.edu).  Remember, there is a charge to use a Testing Center, so it is important for everyone to be clear about who will be paying the fee before the arrangements are finalized.


General Advice

Plan Ahead - If you know before a new semester begins that you will miss several classes because of prior commitments, check out your course Web sites to determine if the attendance policieis will adversely affect your grades. If so, consider delaying enrollment, to another semester.

Make-Up Work - Before you ask your instructor for permission to make up course work, review the course syllabus for your instructor's policy, if any, on this important matter. Most instructors who allow make-up work, including tests, will require you to notify them before you are absent. (See "University Approved Absences" above.)

Dropping Lowest Grade - And while you're checking out the course make-up policy, find out if your instructor allows students to drop their lowest grade on various assignments. This means that if you are sick and miss a quiz, you will not be allowed to make up the missed quiz,  instead you will be allowed to drop the resulting failing grade. If you miss your final exam and receive a failing grade for that exam, don't assume your instructor will drop that grade. (See Final Exam and Attendance Policy.)

Three Free Absences - Some instructors deduct points at the end of the semester for each absence after an announced allotted number. If you are permitted, say, three absences without penalty, the total number of points you earn in the course will be lowered by x factor thereafter. Some instructors deduct points from the "class participation" portion of the grade for absences that exceed the allotted number.

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