Recent debate over an East Central College instructor’s attendance policy that limited a freshman volleyball player’s participation in a recent tournament produced a standing-room only crowd at Monday night’s board of trustees meeting.
Four people, including the freshman athlete and her mother, signed up to speak before the board. The speakers were both for and against the policy instituted by biology instructor Dr. Parvadha Govindaswamy.
The attendance policy, which states a student may not have more than three absences before repeating the course, limited freshman Hannah Leslie’s play in a national volleyball tournament last month in Ohio.
Leslie, 19, had an excuse note from the athletic director to play in the national championship games, however, Govindaswamy refused to honor the absence as excused, as Leslie had already missed three classes to play in earlier games.
The college did reach a compromise of sorts, transporting Leslie to the tournament in Ohio after class on Wednesday and bringing her back after Thursday’s game.
Leslie’s mother, Sonia Leslie, asked the board to “review the policy regarding excused absences due to school related activities.”
“Others on her team had teachers with the same attendance policy,” Sonia Leslie said, “and (they) were allowed to miss twice as much as Hannah.”
Sonia Leslie, the mother of two student athletes, said her daughter is an honor student and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and that athletics have only enhanced her daughter’s learning experience.
“Because of their full schedules (her daughters) have learned to use their time wisely and be more organized than other students who are non-athletes,” she said. “They learned better ways to study and learned to communicate and work as a team.”
Kaci Borgmann, an ECC graduate who attended St. Louis University and will graduate from St. Louis College of Pharmacy in May, said the structure of the attendance policy within the science department prepared her for her advanced studies.
“Going forward, especially on to four-year universities, you have to be prepared to be in class, just like you would have to be prepared to be on time for a job,” she said. “I think it’s very important to keep the policy as it is and not take excuses for anything except illness or funerals.”
Traditionally, instructors have set their own individual attendance policies, and English instructor Bob Mahon said it should stay that way.
“Dr. Govindaswamy is an excellent teacher,” he said. “ECC applauds itself on its nursing program, which comes from a great science program.”
Mahon pointed out that science classes at ECC, especially Govindaswamy’s biology class, are rigorous and missing classes could hurt student learning and ability to move on to higher classes.
“From time immemorial it has been the instructor’s prerogative to set the attendance policy,” he said. “(Hannah Leslie) is whining. There is no need to make any policy changes.”
The board didn’t take any action or have much discussion about the opinions voiced at the meeting, but board President Jim Perry said they would take the matter under advisement.