FAQs for Attendance Standards

How many absences are too many?

Your attendance policy should set the parameters for the amount of student engagement necessary to maintain course integrity and foster student learning and successful achievement of course outcomes. A number of factors have to be accounted for in determine this amount (e.g. use active learning strategies, pacing of content). Faculty are empowered to set and hold students accountable for the attendance policies in their courses.

Are absences related to COVID excused?

Per ARP 4.46.B, COVID absences would fall into the category of extenuating circumstances and are therefore at the discretion of the faculty member.

What happens if they have excused absences and then get sick, leading to more than my allowed absences?

The total number of absences is what impacts course integrity and student success. If a student’s total number of absences greatly exceeds your attendance policy, students should be referred to the Medical Withdrawal policy. Faculty are empowered to strike the balance between being as flexible as possible and maintaining the boundaries around course integrity.

What constitutes a change in course delivery mode, and what does not?

If faculty are symptomatic or waiting for test results, temporarily moving a class to online synchronous delivery is a good option. This is viewed as a temporary relocation, not a shift to hybrid or blending learning. Providing engaging learning experiences that are consistent with course learning objectives is the priority. Stopgap strategies to accommodate emerging circumstances may have to include some use of online learning.

Faculty should consult with their Department Heads if they need to further clarify what is an appropriate stopgap strategy and what is truly hybrid course delivery.

If I put the materials online for students who are absent, does that count as changing my course delivery to hybrid? Would that violate the directive against changing modes?

No, supporting your face-to-face course with online support materials does not connote a change in course modality.

What does “as flexible as possible” mean and is anyone monitoring this? How can I be sure I’m not outside expected guidelines?

Nobody is monitoring individual faculty decisions for handling student absences. We believe that faculty have the knowledge and compassion necessary to balance attendance flexibility with course integrity. “As possible” is also up to the faculty member’s discretion and decisions about how to accommodate students should also include the faculty member’s available resources. When in doubt, consult your department head for more guidance, or reach out to Associate Provost Rebecca Campbell at rjpc@nmsu.edu with questions.

Should we be social distancing in the classroom?

Not necessarily. It is not possible to maintain a 6-foot distance between individuals in many of our classrooms. That’s why masks for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, are so important. As an instructor, you can dismiss students from your classroom if they are not willing to wear a mask indoors. You can also recommend that a student leave class and catch up on missed work later if they are exhibiting symptoms in class such as excessive coughing. Everybody should also use other COVID-safe practices such as frequent hand-washing to help reduce risk.

You are also empowered to make decisions about how to adapt your class delivery using outdoor spaces, rotating attendance, online assignment options, or other tools that work for your teaching needs.

What can I do to mitigate the time lag in testing and contact tracing?

As long as masks are being worn properly in the classroom, most people in the room would not be close contacts of an infected person. Close contacts in the classroom are those who are within three feet of another person for a total of more than 15 minutes. Most fully vaccinated people with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine or be restricted from work following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, if they follow the testing and masking recommendations. We understand that there is some lag in contact tracing. This is why vaccination, testing, mask-wearing and other protections are so important.

A student informed me they tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

Ask the student to report their positive case through the online portal right away to initiate contact tracing. Reassure them that you and NMSU are here for them, and that reporting is the best way to help protect the rest of the community and get the support they need while they self-isolate and recover. You can also contact Aggie Health and Wellness at campus_health@nmsu.edu or 575-646-1512 to alert them to the disclosure, so they can watch for that self-report to come in. (It’s not a HIPAA violation to report a case that is disclosed to you.)

Faculty members should set behavioral norms and expectations in the classroom, in alignment with the latest guidance from the university and the state regarding safety measures like mask-wearing. If this occurs, faculty have the authority to quietly and respectfully ask students to leave.

We need faculty members to reinforce the need for personal responsibility by emphasizing the importance of those behavioral expectations and informing your students where they can get more information. Each student should have already viewed the Crimson Commitment video on myNMSU and acknowledged it, but we know that repetition improves retention of that information, so you may wish to include the video, which is available at https://vimeo.com/592327439, as an assignment This downloadable COVID-19 syllabus addendum provides a clear one-page summary of expectations that you can share with students: https://provost.nmsu.edu/faculty-and-staff-resources/syllabus/COVIDSyllabusText.pdf

What’s the likelihood that we will end up fully online?

Small. Currently, there are no plans under discussion for this possibility. Since COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation, we cannot with certainty rule it out. NMSU leadership closely monitors daily reports from the New Mexico Department of Health to understand, down to the level of ZIP codes, the trends of COVID-19 in the community. An online COVID-19 data dashboard provides a snapshot of that data daily, Monday through Friday, and for each week. These reports help us understand trends in data like new infections, recoveries, and hospital capacity. In addition to daily monitoring, NMSU leadership meets frequently with campus experts to assess trends in critical metrics. These meetings could trigger actions and data collection to better assess the situation.

How do I accommodate students who have been absent?

Per ARP 4.46.C, students who are absent must be provided with an accommodation process for missed work. However, that does not imply that faculty are expected to provide one-on-one resources to those students. Best practice is to design class activities and sketch out what the companion activity would be for absent students.

If necessary, you may consider advising a student that is extremely behind to submit a single course or full University medical withdrawal from your course. There are financial aid and residence life implications to falling below full-time status, so please be sure to refer them to their academic advisor to make these decisions.

How can I support students in distress?

Recognize and validate student’s emotions. Students are juggling all of their activities and relationships in different ways. COVID-safe practices may look different between class, roommates and families, and those differences may cause tensions that spill over into emotions and anger.

Counseling is available through the Aggie Health and Wellness Center for students seeking help with a crisis, mental health, and personal growth and well-being. Services are free and confidential to NMSU Las Cruces campus students. NMSU’s Office of Health Promotion offers many online resources for students’ mental well-being, including managing stress and depression or anxiety.

There is emotional labor involved in supporting students in this way. Faculty should keep a good watch on their own distress signals. Aggie Health and Wellness Center offers the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP is a confidential counseling and referral service available to all NMSU faculty and staff. Call 575-646-6603 for more info. Well-Being Solutions, the employee assistance program from the State of New Mexico, also provides services to eligible employees and their family members. You can schedule up to five free counseling sessions by calling 833-515-0771 or visiting www.guidanceresources.com and using SONMEAP as the web ID.