Discussing excuse policy

GM works with Student Life Committee

Over this past year, the Student Life Committee worked on revisions to the excuse policy. They recently learned that most of their revisions passed through. We interviewed Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15, former Student Life Committee Chair, regarding his old committee’s work and the new excuse policy.

The committee began working on the excuse policy after Student Health Center Director Leslie Lawrence spoke with Student Senate last fall. After working with many stakeholders around campus to come up with a better policy to reflect the needs of students and faculty alike, SLC brought a proposal before the Senate earlier this semester. The proposal passed and was then brought to the administration.

The significant change is that if the faculty member and student agrees, no documentation is needed for the excuse. Another large change is that health-related documentation is not required to come from the Health Center. The excuse policy wording also better reflects what is often done in practice; for example, how to submit an excuse. Over the summer when the 2014–2015 course catalog comes out, the new excuse policy will be included. Keraga noted that making a change like this sets a precedent for Senate and the student body as a whole. Only a few changes were made to the proposal.

Elizabeth: Explain to me the excuse policy changes.

Kyle: We approached these changes after we became aware of a large number of student concerns. It was hard for students who couldn’t reach campus to get an excuse, there was no flexibility when students couldn’t obtain proof in writing, and students could be denied by their professor without further input. We negotiated with RPI administration throughout the year and came up with a more student-friendly policy.

The new policy is much clearer defined and much more flexible. If students don’t have proof or can’t make it to campus, they can still get an excuse. Also students still have input into the final decision if professors disagree, by contacting Academy Hall if a professor denies an excuse, so the new process promotes a much fairer, trust-focused student-faculty relationship. It’s a bit of a breakthrough in terms of student rights—we haven’t been able to work directly on this sort of policy in years, and we were able to accomplish a lot.

Elizabeth: What changes did the administration make to Senate’s proposal?

Kyle:They moved a few sentences around but most of the process is intact and that’s what really matters. The only real change they took out that we’d like to see in there is a guarantee that a student with proof will be excused—that didn’t make it in, and it would have been nice, but with all the progress that has been made I think this is a great starting point.

Elizabeth: When will these changes go into effect?

Kyle: The catalog policy will go into effect over the summer as soon as the official catalog is updated. The only piece that isn’t going to take effect immediately is the online excuse submission, as that’s going to be dealt with through the Student Experience website—they’re looking at our proposal for the new website so it will depend how long it takes SE to finalize the new website language. We have been told that this feature is being implemented so at this point it’s just a matter of when.

Elizabeth: Any concluding statements?

Kyle: I want to thank the Student Life Committee as a lot of people worked hard on this project. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish and glad I had the chance to lead such a great group.