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New student absence policy makes difficult situations easier

September 12, 2022 — 

As we make a full return to campus this Fall, we’re all navigating new circumstances. The health, safety and wellness of our campus community is our top priority, which warrants a change in how we approach temporary student absences.

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the past two years, it’s that some things are out of our control. This is one of the main reasons for UM’s updated policy on student absences, effective September 2022. Here are the answers about some common questions about the new policy:

What’s different with this new policy?

Students were previously required to submit a medical note or other form of documentation to receive an extension on an assignment, or defer a test or exam, or be absent from a class. With the new policy, students will instead fill out a self-declaration form.

Self-declaration forms will be accepted as a valid document to allow academic arrangements to be made. This system is meant to make difficult situations easier for both students and instructors such that both parties can make reasonable arrangements during situations that can affect a student’s academic progress.

How will it work?

Self-declaration forms are valid documents that students can use for absences for up to 120 hours and missed tests, exams or assignments due to extenuating circumstances. It is still important to inform instructors as soon as possible of an absence or need for an extension. Instructors are obligated to make reasonable academic arrangements in line with course outlines. These circumstances include illnesses and medical conditions, compassionate/personal needs, religious observances, bereavement and participation in approved scholastic or athletic events.

In the case of deferring a final exam scheduled during the final exam period, students must submit a self-declaration form to an advisor in their faculty of registration no later than 48 hours after the date of a missed final exam.

Students are not expected to disclose personal information about their situation beyond describing the nature of the situation. Note that the policy does not apply to planned absences like vacations, or for longer-term absences such as authorized withdrawals, leaves of absence or disability-related accommodations.

Why did the policy change?

The need to submit and wait for approval of documentation like a medical note or death certificate would take up more time and perhaps add more stress to an already tough situation. In the case of a health-related emergency or an illness, it is best for a student to focus on getting better, rather than going to a clinic for the purpose of a note. Of course, students can and should seek medical assistance or other supports as needed when dealing with extenuating circumstances.

How else does this benefit students?

 Staying home when you’re sick is one of the best and simplest ways to protect the UM and larger community. This also encourages students to prioritize their health, making sure you’re feeling at your best to fuel your success and not risking your own health. You’ll be able to focus on your safety without worrying about academic consequences for something you can’t control.

What should I do if I’m dealing with an unexpected situation?

 Please contact your instructor to make arrangements for your absence. In the case of needing to defer a final exam, contact an advisor in your home faculty. If you have more questions about the policy, you can reach out to Student Advocacy. The office can help you navigate university processes and advocate for your rights as a student. We trust that students will complete these forms with honesty and use them only when necessary. False declarations are considered a violation of academic integrity and can result in discipline.

Learn more about the self-declaration policy for students

Download the self-declaration form

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