Widgets Magazine

Bill urges change to attendance policy

The ASSU Undergraduate Senate unanimously passed the Calling for Action to Restore Decency and Equality in Non-accessible Language Courses (CARDINAL) Act Tuesday. The bill urges the Language Center to take immediate action in revising its attendance policy, which deducts two percentage points from a student’s final grade for every absence, regardless of the justification for missing class.


The CARDINAL Act, co-sponsored by Michael Cruz ‘12, ASSU executive president, and the Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, was authored by Elections Commissioner Adam Adler ‘12 and six senators.


The bill’s central premise is that the current attendance policy violates the “spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Stanford’s Nondiscrimination Policy” by not “accommodat[ing] students who miss classes as a result of a disability or medical condition.”


Senator Ian Chan ‘14, who co-authored the bill and presented it at Tuesday’s meeting, stressed that automatic grade deductions discriminate against certain groups of students.


In their discussion of the bill both this week and last, the senators also noted what they termed the policy’s inconsistent implementation across departments.


Senate Dan DeLong ’13 emphasized that, because of confusion over what constitutes an excused absence, instructors apply the policy inconsistently.


“Not all of the instructors feel comfortable enforcing this policy,” DeLong said. “These [rules] are coming down from the powers that be. And if they don’t enforce this policy, which this quarter and last quarter they’ve been forced to enforce, then they are insubordinate, and insubordination is grounds for termination.”


By not excusing absences due to extracurricular events, court dates, illness or any foreseen or unforeseen event, the stringency of the policy also forces students to drop classes, the bill’s supporters said.


The bill also argued that the Language Center policy “pressures students to attend class when doing so may jeopardize their health and wellness,” and that of their peers.


“I’ve had to skip class because I’ve been sick and have been penalized, which I personally think is ridiculous,” said Senator Alon Elhanan ‘14.


Although he said he believes that the Language Center has “not [been] too cooperative” in its meetings with the senators, Delong reminded the senators that the policy’s intention is good.


“They want to encourage students to show up to class,” he said. “To learn a language, you have to be in an immersion course.”


Earlier in the meeting, the Senate also debated a bill granting an exemption to the Stanford Daily to bank with an institution other than Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE). The Daily has historically banked independently of SSE on a University waiver, without receiving a distinct waiver from the ASSU legislative bodies. This year, Adler found a previously overlooked section of the ASSU constitution requiring action from the ASSU legislative bodies in deciding how to grant an ASSU banking waiver to student groups, suggesting that student groups must receive both an ASSU and University waiver. Senate Chair Rafael Vazquez ‘12 and Appropriations Chair Brianna Pang ‘13 authored the bill to grant an exemption to The Daily.


Senators expressed their concern that public financial reports and refund requests for students may be less accessible if The Daily continues to bank externally to SSE. Daily Editor in Chief Margaret Rawson ‘12 responded by noting that copies of The Daily’s audit are available upon request, as legally required of the non-profit institution, and The Daily complies with all transparency requirements of the special fees process. Rawson cited The Daily’s status as the largest independent campus publication as a key factor making external banking crucial to maintaining the integrity of the paper, which frequently reports on the ASSU and, subsequently, SSE.


“Long-term practice has been that the only banking that was done was the fee itself,” Nanci Howe, director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL), said. “[The Daily is] audited; the ASSU gets a copy of that audit. That seemed to work.”


The bill was on previous notice Tuesday and will face a vote next week.