Departments made attendance exceptions for H1N1

Without a University-wide policy concerning H1N1 related absences, departments, and in some cases professors, have been left with the task of creating their own policies.

The University hasn’t been completely without input, however.  It has made recommendations about how to handle this type of absence to departments, but has ultimately left the final say to each department.

“We are going to kind of play it by ear,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Relations, Kristin DeSmith. “We are encouraging professors to update blackboard in case people are sick. We are meeting every other week to discuss the situation and see how things are going.”

Even apart from the current situation concerning the prospect of H1N1, there is no standard attendance policy at UAA; each individual department is left to their own devices when it comes to a policy.

Officials have expressed that it is important to stay home if a person comes down with swine flu, but this does not necessarily coincide with the attendance policies that are in place in the classrooms.

“This department does not have [an attendance policy],” said the Chair of the psychology department, Dr. John Petraitis. “It is up to the individual instructors to decide what is appropriate for the class. In my class I am talking about giving them essentially a get out of jail free card. It gives them a one-week, no questions asked, extension on an assignment. It can be for whatever assignment they want.”

The culinary arts department, which encompasses not only the culinary arts, but also hospitality and restaurant management and dietetics and nutrition, does have a department-wide attendance policy. Students are allowed three unexcused absences. Sickness, however, doesn’t count towards those three absences, even before the outbreak of swine flu, according to Timothy Doebler, the director of the culinary arts department.

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“We accept medical absences,” Doebler said. “So if you have a doctor’s note we will consider it an excused absence.”

Doebler also believes that flexibility is a must in the attendance policy.

“We have people who are in the National Guard, have kids that get sick or are taking care of elderly parents,” Doebler said.

“A lot of our students have children, so we’ll see what to do when the kids get sick,” Petraitis said.

Not all classes will be heavily affected by H1N1, though. The dietetics and nutrition program, for example, is held entirely online, where students can log in at their own leisure.

“We are encouraging people who come down with symptoms to stay home and get rest and stay away from other people as much as they can,” said Lt. Ron Swartz, the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at UAA.