Center for Students with Disabilities, alleviated attendance guidelines create another obstacle

People+gather+outside+of+the+Student+Center.

Eric Henry

People gather outside of the Student Center.

For DePaul junior Kiana Ratay, this quarter has been filled with medical hardships. However, DePaul’s attendance policy and the Center for Students with Disabilities has only made things harder — despite DePaul claiming to have alleviated attendance policies to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“Because the Delta variant is so easily transmitted, the University is asking anyone who feels at all ill to stay home and avoid infecting others,” DePaul said in a communication to faculty. “So, in face-to-face classes in particular, you can expect absences from students, and you may even need to stay home yourself.”

However, this communication told faculty there is not an attendance policy they’re required to implement, only a set of suggested guidelines.

“​​DePaul has never had a university-wide attendance policy,” Associate Provost for Student Success and Accreditation Caryn Chaden told The DePaulia in an email. “Different areas of study require different teaching methods and different classroom practices; it is up to faculty to determine the appropriate attendance policy for their class.”

Leaders from DePaul’s Faculty Council, Academic Affairs and Student affairs worked together to provide faculty with these guidelines. These suggestions include allowing students to miss anywhere between 10 to 20 percent of all class periods, faculty meeting with individual students about their attendance and/or providing alternative assignments for students to complete if they cannot attend an in-person course.

However, many professors have continued to implement attendance policies with regulations that could harm a student’s grade if they miss over a certain amount of classes. A public speaking course requires all students to be in attendance for three presentation days. If a student is not in attendance on any of these three days, the student will automatically receive a failing grade. The class meets once a week, every Monday night, so with three weeks of presentations, if a student happens to get sick that week — they fail.

Chaden said DePaul intends to keep attendance policies consistent by providing FAQs and the Guidance document. Giving a frequently asked questions document credit for the implementation of DePaul’s new attendance suggestions promoting “compassion and flexibility” university-wide.

DePaul’s Dean of Students Office is available to assist faculty and students better navigate absences. Through this office, students can provide documentation of their illness with the Student Absence Notification Form. Students submitting an absence notification form for illness are required to provide a doctor’s note and their absence period cannot exceed five days.

Ratay has been struggling with a long-term illness that doctors are still trying to diagnose. Her symptoms worsened this quarter, but when she filed for a different attendance policy to exceed the five days, it was denied despite a three-page paper describing her illness alongside required documentation.

“The university does lack resources for students like me, who have longer-term illnesses,” Ratay said. “I reached out to the Center for Students with Disabilities, and after filling out forms for two hours they still requested more information from my doctors, and said they could not help me in my request for a different attendance policy.”

Ratay has struggled to juggle the illness, classes and dealing with the Center for Students with Disabilities.

“I can’t even talk to one of their disability counselors until I get approved to be in the program, which can take up to two weeks,” Ratay said. “I have to provide all this stuff — I don’t have time for that now, I mean, I’m sick. I already provided proof that I’m sick, so what else do [they] want? It’s completely unacceptable.”

While the Center for Students with Disabilities and DePaul’s attendance policy have not done Ratay any favors, she said she is “lucky [her] teachers have been so accommodating.” She said communicating with professors and working with them to create a plan for success have been extremely helpful.

While Ratay’s professors are accommodating, that is not always the case.

DePaul’s Center for Students with Disabilities is available to help students navigate academics alongside taking care of themselves.

“Students enrolled with the CSD continue to have access to learning specialists and clinicians who can assist them with: organizational skills, time management skills, study skills and more. These services are available in-person and remotely,” Gregory Moorehead, director of DePaul’s Center for Students with Disabilities, told the DePaulia in an email.

But as Ratay experienced, the assistance is not immediate, which is needed by students facing not only Covid-19, but other illnesses.

“Going to the Center for Students with Disabilities is just pointless,” she said. “They say it can take up to two weeks to get accepted into the program. I’m sick now, how does this help me now? It doesn’t.”