Heartless policies are inexcused

By SpencerRoush

Everyone handles tragedy differently. Some may lose their appetite and want to stay in bed for days, while others immerse themselves in work to try blocking out their loss. Reactions vary; it just depends on the person.

After experiencing loss firsthand and seeing friends go through similar experiences, one thing is always the same: the vulnerability that person is susceptible to is emotional, physical and cognitive. This can make what would normally be considered an “everyday” work load unbearable.

This is especially true for Columbia students because of the strict attendance policy instructors in many departments are obligated to follow.  The main rule is if a student misses more than three classes unexcused, it results in an automatic failure. However, it’s up to the professor to deem what “unexcused” means.  College students experience an enormous struggle with death or other great loss because they are often away from family, who would normally console them, and classes don’t come to a halt when an incident occurs. They go on as usual with many professors still expecting the work to be done regardless of the student’s grief.

Some Columbia professors realize students under extreme circumstances need a break from classes and will generously accept assignments when they return. Others, however, put more strain on grieving students by asking them to take exams and complete homework assignments.

A friend told me he asked his professor what options he had to take the midterm and turn in assignments at a later date because he was more than 15 hours away at a hospital after a family member had experienced a tragic, life-altering accident. The professor said he was a bright student who could overcome the challenge and he would see him next class to take the midterm.

Another student went straight to class from a funeral because she wasn’t allowed to retake the final. She wasn’t in the right state of mind to be taking a test and failed the exam. The student then went to the department’s academic manager to get the grade expunged from her class record. However, it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.

If professors are unwilling to let students re-take midterms in their class or during office hours, Columbia needs to offer a day when everyone who missed a major test can take it at a later, more convenient date. This could happen on a Saturday when there are limited class sessions. There could be a room set up with an overseer to distribute the various tests and collect them.

Some students are bound to abuse this opportunity. But for those who actually need to take the midterm or final at a later date, it would be more than beneficial. Perhaps to ensure students aren’t taking advantage, documentation may need to be provided to the instructor showing that there was, in fact, a loss or emergency.

Completing everyday tasks can be a struggle, let alone taking a test or being graded on performance. The loss of someone can be overpowering and everyone in contact with the grieving student should take note of his or her emotional and cognitive state. It’s time for Columbia to adapt to these needs through more than offering counseling services.