ISEP to re-evaluate students’ absence policy
by Katrina Tortorici
For years Dawson students and faculty have not had a common understanding of the students’ absence policy that is ambiguously written in the Institutional Student Evaluation Policy (ISEP), but soon that might be subject to a change.
“Six classes is somehow a magical number,” said Academic Dean, Robert Kavanagh. “There are situations with six classes maybe, but it’s not an ISEP rul As things currently sit, there has been no change in ISEP with respect to the absence policy, but we are in the process of changing it…We think there will be changes in the next year or two.” Exactly how the policy will be modified, Kavanagh has no knowledge of, but there is a good chance that the attendance policy will change.
“For my science classes, I can miss as many classes as I want, as long as I’m there for labs and tests. But I can’t miss more than six classes for English, French and Humanities,” said fourth semester Pure and Applied student Sarah Casquinha.
ISEP presently states the following: “Students have an obligation to respect their teachers’ right to formulate and enforce policies on lateness and attendance. Penalties for absences may include failure in the course.” ISEP has not had any changes in quite a number of years and does not affirm that a student obtains an automatic fail after an absence from six classes.
After a certain number of years, the college is required by the Commission d’Évaluation to re-evaluate ISEP.
It begins with Senate, a membership of 35 people (four of whom are students) who represent the highest academic reflection body in the college. The Senate receives recommendations on issues that need to be reassessed, in this case the lack of clarity in the role of absences, and then attempts to elucidate the issue or policy. Thereafter, the Board of Governors receives the recommendation from Senate.
The Board has the last word on changing college policies. The changes can take anywhere between one to two years.
“We recently had this evaluation and there were 20 to 30 recommendations, one of them dealt with the absence policy because a number of students and teachers said that it isn’t quite as clear as it should be,” Kavanagh said.
Mitchell Azzolin, a teacher from the Interior Design Program, feels that attendance plays a big part in the learning process and is disappointed that there isn’t a written rule to fail students after missing an unreasonable amount of classes.
“With design it’s different,” said Azzolin. “You need the hands on experience, and if they don’t get it they’ll fail on their own. I’m giving you my experience, I want you to be there to receive and to listen.
“Students will find ways not to come to class. It’s not fair for students to skip class and do just as well as those who attend. Life will reflect on what’s happening in school. You can’t miss an appointment with a client, etc. In the end, life will judge you,” he said.
Kavanagh has a different perspective on the issue, however.
“Teachers are the strongest, largest professional group that we have. All public education systems rest on the teacher, their understanding, knowledge, ability to work in learning environments, and ability to evaluate. We have rules about it, which is what ISEP is about, but even the ground of ISEP rests on the capacity of our teachers to exercise professional judgmen It is a teacher’s capacity to know and to teach and therefore to know and to judge.”
Nonetheless, Kavanagh is a strong believer in the social dynamic of learning. Despite the fact that there may not be a written rule, he believes that students are better off learning if they are a part of the experience.
“I’m of the opinion that a student’s practical obligation is to be involved in the teaching and learning process, meaning actively engaged in classes, studios, or labs…It’s possible that some students learn by themselves, where it appears that presence is less important, but there is a social dynamic where we are involved with one another, contribute to one another, and receive from one another.”