In response to student complaints regarding the new attendance policy, the department made changes Wednesday to clarify that excused absences could be used in exceptional situations such as family emergencies, the Acting Chair of the School of Cinematic Arts’ John Wells Division of Writing for Screen and Television David Isaacs said.
“We were trying to make it a little more flexible — where we went wrong was not putting in the exceptions,” Isaacs said. “If you had an emergency, a family emergency, certainly a health or an emotional issue, religious holiday — all of those kinds of things are, of course, going to be allowed.”
The clarified policy was emailed to professors Wednesday so they could update their syllabuses and inform their students of the changes. However, multiple students told the Daily Trojan they had not been made aware of the clarification.
The previous version of the attendance policy stated the department would no longer distinguish between excused and unexcused absences starting this semester. Beyond the first two absences, each missed class lowers students’ course grades by 10%, and two late arrivals count as one full absence. In the past policy no unexcused absences were allowed.
SCA students drafted an official complaint to the administration last month stating that the attendance policy was harmful to students’ physical and mental well-being in a department as competitive as SCA.
“In an environment as high-stress as SCA, in which students work full-time jobs on top of taking full courseloads, it is imperative that students have the chance to rest,” the letter read. “Of course, it would be optimal if that time of rest did not have to come during class hours, but students should be free to take that time if necessary, as we discussed in the memorial meeting last semester.”
Isaacs explained the reasoning behind the policy was to allow students to miss class without having to submit excuse notes.
“We voted on it as a full-time faculty back in November,” Isaacs said. “We had discussed opening up the idea of allowing for an extra unexcused absence and then letting the students know the line that we would allow in terms of them not having to account for their coming to class.”
Isaacs said the way the policy had been worded led to confusion, with students thinking they would no longer have excused absences. However, Isaacs said students will be allowed two unexcused absences in addition to excused absences.
“It’s not meant to be punishing,” Isaacs said. “It’s meant to allow them a little more freedom and the idea that there are exceptions beyond the two unexcused absences.”
Isaacs said that as soon as he heard student feedback about the policy, he realized the miscommunication that had taken place and decided to rewrite the policy.
The new policy states that absence exceptions will be made for religious holidays and DSP accommodations. It also states that students can get instructor approval to miss class for medical and family emergencies and to accommodate personal well-being needs.
Roma Murphy, a senior majoring in writing for screen and television, said none of her professors had mentioned the change or updated their syllabuses with the new policy. She also said she thinks the attendance policy changes should be addressed to the student body.
“The updated version of the policy needs to be sent to the student body as a whole,” Murphy said. “Students don’t have the information with which they can advocate for themselves.”
Murphy said the administration should listen to student voices before implementing policies in order to strengthen communication and enhance transparency within the administration.
“There needs to be more communication from the administration to the student body whenever they’re going to implement a new policy,” Murphy said. “There needs to be more opportunity for students to give feedback on administration.”