Class cancellation policy remains unclear

Professors practices vary despite the U’s blanket policy.
November 24, 2009

Confusion surrounding class cancellation policies at the University of Minnesota is causing some students to start their Thanksgiving break early, while others must stay on campus for Wednesday classes.
There are varying understandings among professors, students and administrators over whether holding classes the day before Thanksgiving is required.
Cathrine Wambach, chair of the University Senate’s educational policy committee said the University’s policy is that professors are expected to hold class at the scheduled time, even Wednesday evening.
“The official University policy would be that the professor would be expected to have class, and that students would be expected to be there,” Wambach, a post-secondary teaching and learning professor, said.
However, University spokesman Ryan Maus, speaking on behalf of the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, said there is “no blanket policy or guidelines for cancelling class for faculty members.”
“We aren’t … all on the same page, I think, across campus,” Wambach said.
Despite the policy, Wambach said she would be “shocked” if there were any disciplinary action against a professor who cancelled a class the day before break.
Generally, professors expect low attendance in their Wednesday classes, and many find ways to accommodate students who can’t or don’t make it to class.
“I am holding class. I’m sure attendance will be down,” said Steven Kass, who teaches a weekly organic chemistry class Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Yet, he is sensitive to students who cannot attend.
“I’m also aware people are traveling and won’t be there,” Kass said. “The compromise is I’ll post the notes so they can see what they missed.”
First-year Rachel Rahkola said two of her earlier classes were cancelled, so she is planning on skipping her third later class because “there’s no point in sticking around for it.”
Chris Dovolis cancelled his Structure of Computer Programming class.
“Generally, attendance is pretty low as people try to get on their way to their Thanksgiving plans,” he said, adding it was an appropriate time to miss a class, because he gave the students a midterm on Monday.
Wambach said the shorter fall semester is the reason the University has classes the day before Thanksgiving.
As the campus nears the long weekend, closed libraries and cafeterias put students in the mindset to skip their last classes before a break, she said.
“It really kind of gives students the impression that the whole University is closed on Wednesday night,” she said. “Students start to get the message that … they should feel free to leave.”

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