Wednesday, September 23, 2015
You Make the Call: Social Media Edition
I might go as far as to check with all the student's professors, and ask if this has happened before. If you discover that the student is selectively Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian… then you have a larger issue to deal with.
And someone should have a chat with the young lunk. They need to learn that doing that when employed would probably result in losing their job. An unpleasant conversation now could be a useful part of their education if they learn to be more honest (or more circumspect).
I assume your college has a policy requiring faculty to respect religious holidays. Ours does, requiring advanced notice and appropriate documentation, then mandates makeups and any other relevant accommodation. That makes this partly your responsibility. For major things, like a missed exam, especially a final exam, that is only covered by syllabus policy, faculty regularly have staff check with the doctor's office to see if the excuse is valid because those are so easily forged. Perhaps you should suggest to the prof that s/he ask for a rabbi's note?
From the description above, it sounds like just cutting class. My response is -- so what? As a faculty member of both a HS and a CC, one of the biggest differences to me is how attendance works. In HS there are "excused" and "unexcused" absences, but in my CC classes there are only absences. You get three to use in any combination of lecture and lab, and I'm not going to ask how you use them. If you decide that staying home to watch television sounds more appealing than attending my lecture, go for it (as long as you won't exceed three absences)...I'd rather not have to waste my time investigating an excuse. If you miss a quiz or exam, there's no make up...but I drop the lowest quiz and lowest exam, so you're really not at a disadvantage anyway.
The bottom line: Emergencies happen. Cutting happens (a lot). Why bother trying to differentiate the two?
I mentioned "student" because of the possibility that a student in that class (or perhaps a former fried of the student in question) is using you as the means of submitting an anonymous complaint to the prof, even if the message didn't say so.
I mentioned "employee" or "taxpayer" because of the possibility that the twit tweeted with a hashtag that brought it to the attention of your college's social media people. That raises the ante, if the intent was to signal that your new college (or that prof) has a low reputation for academic integrity or standards. That might mean your social media maven wants to do something.
I personally have an "emergencies" policy of replacing a missed or low exam, but that would not apply to an absence due to jury duty or a religious holiday. There I am required to give a makeup exam if I was given advanced notice of the conflict, which changes a "meh" situation into an "honor code" one.
And by the way, I now think the answer is "E": Contact the prof and find out what was done in class on Yom Kippur (I'm guessing), because you had an inquiry about excused absences. (Keep it true, but vague.) If it turns out the answer is "nothing special", then the answer is "A". It is pretty common for freshmen to think the fact that we take attendance means it counts for something like it does in HS. Here it is just fed into the maw of the great Beast of Financial Aid Accountability, and the people who give points for participation/attendance know that one day means nothing at the end of the semester.
Thing is, there is still another party involved - the professor - and by not making hir aware of the incident, you as admin are making a judgment call as to what speech the professor should be exposed to. That makes the admin a different kind of speech police, one that I thoroughly disagree with. If the professor is (justifiably) offended, then the professor should have the right to pursue action through some academic or student honour code avenue. That call is not for the admin to make; that rests solely with the professor. Depriving the professor of the awareness of this incident is wrong, so the admin must make the professor aware, and remind the professor of the college-sanctioned avenues to pursue action.
I wonder if there would be legal implications for trying to enforce a punitive policy, specifically if the student could contest this as selectively targeting them. I know that the student isn't being targeted, as can anyone with common sense. But if the student gets punished for this while other people are 'getting away with it', will there be issues?
So I'd suggest sitting down with the professor and deciding how to handle it. You know what actions they can take, within your college policies, and what type of response you'd prefer they make, in keeping with the tone of the school you want to maintain/establish. Two sensible adults should be able to come to a consensus.
(If it was one of my students, my gut reaction would be to tell the kid that any future absences/etc would require documentation, as he/she had just proven that I couldn't trust their word about such things. Would your policies support that? Or would that be considered 'singling out' a student if they had to provide proof, although no one else did?)
One reason I shy away from "C" is that an administrator (I presume the "you" in "someone forwards [the Tweet] to you" is an administrator) sometimes has power over the instructor, especially if it's an adjunct. And forwarding the Tweet to the instructor could be interpreted a subtle way of saying "This is the way you manage your class? Fix it now." That may not be the intent, but it could plausibly be interpreted that way.
I knew which students didn't attend class regularly. They failed the final. The students who were the exceptions, I gave no shits about, because we're all adults here.
13th grade, except that it's really Grade 9A, isn't it?
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