Unauthorized faculty absences lack explanation

The lack of a professor attendance policy could be a reason why students are experiencing frequent professor absences.

According to David Voss, assistant to the vice-president of Academic Affairs, during a 15-week semester there is no limit on the number of days faculty can miss.

Voss said the normal expectation of a professor is to attend every class meeting. A professor should only miss class if pre-approved by a supervisor or in the case of illness.

“To be absent an employee must have approved leave.” Voss said. “The dean of each school or college has the authority to approval or not approve a request.”

Arthur Washington, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said when approving a teacher request for absence, he has to take each faculty member as an “independent case.”

“We don’t have policies on how many days a professor can miss class,” Washington said.

When asked what is the number that he stops approving requests, Washington said, “I can’t give you a number because that would set policy.”

“The policy is that faculty have an obligation to attend class. It’s understood,” Rodner Wright, dean of the School of Architecture, said.

“There is a basic understanding that is it part of obligation and responsibility of the professor,” Wright said.

Barbara Barnes, dean of the School of General Studies, said that there is no set policy for professor attendance but added that, hopefully, professors have qualified colleagues that can teach the class if they’re out.

“They’re [the faculty] supposed to be there, that’s the bottom line,” Barnes said.

Juanita Coats-Brooks, biology professor, said she believes if a professor is going to be absent the class should still be covered.

“There should be a policy in writing about what we are required to do when we can’t teach our class,” Coats-Brooks said. “The chairperson should discuss this issue at meetings. There is nothing on the leave report form that says how you are going to cover your class.”

The leave report form includes a professor’s contract period, type of leave [annual, sick, jury/military duty, leave without pay or DRS day] and total hours out.

The form is to be turned into each department’s chairperson prior to a professor absence or turned in upon return if leave was taken due to illness.

The 2001-2003 contract between the state university system and the United Faculty of Florida, the union that serves as the bargaining agent for its members state-wide, gives terms and conditions for absences due to illness, injury, annual, administrative and military leave but very briefly addresses unauthorized leave.

Article 16.7 says “If an employee is absent without authorized leave for twelve [12] or more consecutive days [under the provisions of Section 17.1], the employee shall be considered to have abandoned the position and voluntarily resigned from the university.”

The contract does not include regulations on the number of days a professor can miss class if authorized nor penalties for unauthorized non-consecutive days absent.

“If a professor is missing class and it’s unauthorized then it needs to be brought to our attention from students,” Voss said. “That is really the only way we will know.”