EXCLUSIVE: Students ‘may not’ be granted excused absences for required quarantines

A sample syllabus statement provided to professors at SMSU says unvaccinated students ‘may not’ be granted excused absences for time spent in required quarantine following COVID exposure.

Provost Ross Wastvedt says that giving professors over the policy is consistent with 'any/all reasons students have for missing class.'

Professors at Southwest Minnesota State University received sample syllabus statement from the dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences saying that unvaccinated students who miss class due to a required quarantine “may not be considered” for an excused absence.

Furthermore, the statement allows professors to create different standards for vaccinated and unvaccinated students

“Unvaccinated students will need to quarantine and miss class if they test positive or are exposed to a positive case (regardless of symptoms). Missing class for this reason alone may not be considered an excused absence for required work,” the statement says.

[RELATED: UVA disenrolls 200+ unvaccinated students] 

Vaccinated students, however, will not need to miss class following exposure unless they experience symptoms. 

In a separate email to faculty, Provost Ross Wastvedt said that the statement was crafted to give “flexibility in how [faculty] respond to unvaccinated students who miss class due to COVID.” 

“Some students may find the statement threatening for reasons we would all consider valid,” he writes. “At the same time, though, we do want students to accept responsibility for their health and the health of the campus community.”

Faculty were also assured in an August 24 email that they are not required to meet one-on-one with unvaccinated students indoors, as long as they provide an alternate method, like meeting outdoors or over Zoom.

[RELATED: Student athletes react to university’s vaccine mandate for sports teams] 

In an email to Campus Reform, Wastvedt clarified that the quarantine requirements for unvaccinated individuals are “consistent with requirements by the State of Minnesota, and in response to guidance from CDC, MDH, and the Mayo Clinic.” 

“Faculty respond to students’ individual situations when evaluating class attendance. This is true for any/all reasons students have for missing class,” he said. “Our faculty are guided by their desire to put students in the best position to succeed and to support them in doing so.”

“As has been the case since the outset of the pandemic, we are focused on two priorities: protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff; and supporting our students as they continue progress towards their educational goals,” Wastvedt said.

Campus Reform reached out to SMSU and College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences Dean Jeffrey W. Bell for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @katesrichardson.