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Wednesday August 17th

As classes return in person, UNC students navigate University Approved Absences

Students listen to an in-person lecture in Dey Hall on UNC's campus on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
Buy Photos Students listen to an in-person lecture in Dey Hall on UNC's campus on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

As the campus community transitions back to fully in-person instruction this spring, students and faculty continue to navigate COVID-19-related class absences.

“Students receive University Approved Absence for COVID when they have tested positive and they have reported that positive test to Campus Health,” Dean of Students Desirée Rieckenberg said.  

Rieckenberg said that students are responsible for communicating directly with their professors if they are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

“University Approved Absences can be retroactive to the date of symptom onset and or the date that they are approved for absences," Rieckenberg said. "All of that is pending that they either test through Campus Health or that they report a positive test to Campus Health."

Since the beginning of the pandemic, students who are required to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 are eligible for a University approved absence, Media Relations said. UNC also has a long-standing policy of providing approved absences for students experiencing a significant health condition.

First-year Margot Bohlin, a computer science major, said she was confused by the policy when she contracted COVID-19 two weeks ago.

When Bohlin was exposed, she reached out to her professors to explain the situation.

“I did get an absence, but it was really complicated,” she said. “I had to email my professor because I had a quiz the next morning and I still didn’t have a (COVID-19 test) result. His policy and the University policy was that you can’t have an absence until your test is positive."

Similarly, some students who have had to quarantine or have been exposed to COVID-19 said they found the policy unhelpful.

Drew Tribble, a first-year public policy and global studies major, was exposed to COVID-19 and chose to quarantine. 

“I never tested positive but I was symptomatic, so I isolated with my roommates that tested positive,” Tribble said. “Attendance-wise, I’m just lucky my professors were nice about it, but I’ve heard others haven’t been. For some of my classes that didn’t have a virtual option, I was forced to skip completely.”

According to a September message from the University, approved absences are granted when students are directed to quarantine or isolate by a medical provider.

Students who miss class due to testing — but are not required to quarantine or isolate by a medical professional — will need to work directly with faculty members on their absence. This policy applies if students test negative for COVID-19 and/or have other illnesses.

Kolby Oglesby, a first-year philosophy major, said he was potentially exposed to COVID-19 and decided to isolate. As UNC's policy states, Oglesby said he directly reached out to his professors.

“I emailed them on the morning of when I hadn’t gotten my test back," he said. "It wasn’t too hard communicating directly with them, but there wasn’t a consistent policy on it. My sociology professor only sends you the Zoom link if you’re quarantining or isolating. He wasn’t super clear on the policy, so I wasn’t able to join virtually that day because I didn’t email him in advance enough.”

Rieckenberg said that there is not a University requirement for faculty to excuse everything related to COVID-19. 

"It’s not a requirement for faculty to be flexible," she said. "It’s an expectation that faculty are as flexible as possible within the pedagogy of their class to work with students during this time.”

More information about obtaining a University approved absence can be found on the Carolina Together website.


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