December 17, 2020
Dear Southern Students,
We look forward to welcoming each of you safely back to campus in 2021, and we hope
you experience a healthy and joy-filled holiday. Following is helpful information
about the past and upcoming semesters’ attendance policies.
As you know, the standing attendance policy was modified for the Fall 2020 semester.
In order to ensure the safety of students, staff, and faculty due to the pandemic,
the university adopted a policy of not connecting grades to student attendance during the fall semester. We did not remove the expectation of class attendance. With traditional attendance
policies, some students feel compelled to attend class even when they are feeling
unwell. When we adjusted course attendance policies for the Fall 2020 semester, our
intention was to promote the health and safety of students and faculty by removing incentives for
ill students to attend class. Under these guidelines, students were not to be penalized if they missed class due
to illness. The amended policy was not intended to:
- Suggest that students did not need to attend class when they were well enough to do
- Discourage students from attending class or engaging in face-to-face learning while
To the contrary, Southern’s faculty, staff, and administration wanted to give students
the leeway to remain at home when they were ill, without the additional stress of
pending grade penalty for absence. Additionally, we have put extensive effort into
making in-person, face-to-face classroom learning safe and feasible.
Unfortunately, it appears that many students misunderstood the amended policy and
were absent for reasons other than illness, which detrimentally affected learning
environments and, in many cases, their grades. For this reason, Academic Administration
and the University Senate collaborated to develop a revised policy for the Winter
2021 semester that resolved this issue while still addressing the need for safety.
This policy incorporates the long-standing attendance policy (currently published
in the 2020-2021 Undergraduate Catalog) with new directives that specifically indicate how attendance will be addressed
during the COVID 19 pandemic for the Winter semester.
Following are the key items to note for the Winter 2021 attendance policy:
Virtual Class Option: For those students who cannot attend face-to-face classes for health reasons or are
concerned about COVID-related safety, certain classes combining virtual and face-to-face
delivery method will be offered.
- These classes will be determined by each university school or department before the
semester of classes begins. If you have questions about this option, please contact
Ms. Karon Powell (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. Dionne Felix (email@example.com).
- Students must submit a formal request to academic administration, by January 28, 2021, to enroll in these classes.
- Email your request to Dr. Dionne Felix (firstname.lastname@example.org), and
- State specifically why you need to take classes online.
Important Note: Please be mindful that not every class will have a virtual option. If you are sick, in quarantine or isolation, accommodations will be made for you.
Again, you will need to communicate with your professors about your situation, and to make the necessary arrangements to complete all assignments.
Permanently switching to virtual class options in the middle of the term will not
be allowed, except in atypical circumstances, and with the appropriate approval from
the university school or department and academic administration.
Your Academic Success: Class attendance is an important part of your academic success. Absences interrupt
your academic progress, minimize student-to-student and student-to-professor interaction,
and significantly diminish the value of your learning experience. While some absences
are unavoidable, communicating with your professors is critical.
Absences do not excuse you from meeting the outlined class requirements. You are responsible
for completing and submitting all assignments required for the class. If you must
be absent, it is your responsibility to complete any work you have missed. To do so:
- Notify your professor(s) before absences from class or within 24 hours of the missed
- Work with your professors on a plan to complete and submit outstanding work by an
- Complete outstanding work, and get caught up on instructional course content that
you missed during your absence.
If you choose not to communicate with your professors, they cannot help you if they
do not hear from you. Remember that regular absences from classes will result in negative
To view the newly modified policy, click here.
Your health is still our priority. The effectiveness of this semester’s attendance policy will be assessed, including
the impact on the mental and physical well-being of students, and the policy will
be adjusted if the need to do so becomes apparent. We will continue to do all that
we can to help you complete a healthy, academically successful semester.
Dr. Robert Young
Senior VP for Academic Administration
Dr. Dionne Felix
Associate VP for Academic Administration
Dean of Student Success and Retention
Dr. Tyson Hall
Associate VP for Academic Administration
Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies