Letters to the Editor

To the Editor: I was sorry to read in last week’s Phillipian that you believe students at PA are resentful and distrustful of the new daily attendance system. Perhaps you will feel differently once you understand why we changed things. As a cluster dean and then as the dean of students, I noted early in my career that our attendance system was not built to offer support to students who, for whatever reason, missed large numbers of classes. In the old system, a student could miss numerous classes, but the cluster dean and the house counselor or advisor would not be aware of those absences until an attendance report was issued 7 to 10 days later. The 2000 New England Association of Schools and Colleges Evaluation recommended “that the Academy examine its policies, procedures and philosophy in regard to student attendance.” That report confirmed the need for a daily attendance system, and the system launched in September is the Academy’s answer to the NAIS recommendation. During the academic school year, we, the faculty, are in loco parentis 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a student misses a full day of classes and isn’t in Isham or excused by the deans, house counselors and deans want to contact the student, not to take disciplinary action but to make sure everything is OK. The new attendance system was created, in part, to close gaps in communication and provide reliable and rapid means of determining the status of students. This system is not simply or even primarily about whether or not a student skipped a class, but about being able to ensure that a student is safe and well. The old system, which you described as flexible and compassionate, was actually more rigid than the new system, which encourages you to be more aware of your attendance record. The new system notifies you by e-mail when you’ve receive an unexcused absence in your classes, athletics or the All-School Meeting and gives you the opportunity to speak with your dean about any errors in a timely manner. Under the old system, you could miss several days of classes and be in serious academic and disciplinary trouble before you or your cluster dean realized it. With the new daily attendance reports available to the deans, they can offer to help you resolve any issues or concerns before it’s too late and before any disciplinary action takes place. The new system was also put in place because many faculty members asked not to be put in the position of deciding whether or not a student’s absence should be excused or unexcused. Those who are comfortable excusing an absence can still do so by contacting the cluster dean. It is regrettable that there is a perceived trend of distrust. Given that this perception exists, it is perhaps understandable that an improved, more efficient attendance system might be seen as stemming from distrust. I hope these clarifications counter that impression. We do have faith in your overall responsibility and trustworthiness. Faculty as well as students consider that faith to be the very foundation of our community. Sincerely, Marlys Edwards Dean of Students