Students raise concerns over exam policy for family deaths

Sidney Childs

After receiving student concerns over SVSU’s policy on missing class for a family death, The Valley Vanguard reached out to Dean of Students Sidney Childs.

The concerns came after a Feb. 10 Vanguard opinion about professors asking students to take exams amid a family death.

Childs said that in such cases, students should come to him with their concerns. He explained that his responsibilities as the dean of students include helping students who face family deaths or other situations that interfere with their performance at school.

“We help them navigate that process with the goal of helping students understand what their responsibilities are and what the university’s responsibilities are,” he said.

Many students struggle with deaths of family members, and in some cases these situations have clashed with exam days, which creates difficulties for both the student and the instructor.

Childs addressed some of students’ concerns and offered advice for resolving these kinds of issues.

“(Faculty) serve as role models for students,” Childs said. “(We want to make sure) we are moving in the direction where everyone understands one another and the student can continue to have a positive experience at the institution.”

Childs said college is a place where students learn how to operate in the real world and successfully handle situations life throws at people, including a family death.

“At the end of the day, it is about creating that environment where the primary purpose for being here is to help students become their best selves,” he said.

He said in the event that a professor says missing the exam means a zero, no matter why a student misses it, there are steps a student can take to advocate for themselves.

One option for students is to speak with the chairperson of that professor’s department. If a student speaks with the department chair and is not satisfied with their response, Childs said, the student can always go to the dean of their college.

If things are still not resolved the way the student would hope, they can get in contact with the provost office.

Childs explained that professors have certain rights when leading a college class. While they must follow university policies, faculty create their own attendance policies.

That means professors decide what is deemed an excused or unexcused absence, he said.

Childs said he encourages students to seek guidance or assistance when it comes to any sorts of issues between students and professors.

“We encourage students to make sure that they are having a conversation with the faculty member,” he said. “Make sure that you are communicating … in a timely manner. In the event that there is a funeral that takes place during finals week, I would have that conversation immediately.”

Students who prefer to address a concern online can go to the Cardinal Care notes on the Student Affairs page of the SVSU website.

“If there are some concerns involving wellness, safety, academic success … you can tell us what is going on,” he said. “It comes to someone in my office and then we will follow up. There is always someone to talk to. … Students are not alone.”

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