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Student Attendance

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Indispensable Reference

Student Attendance


When discussing class attendance with your students, you may find the following excerpts from University policies helpful:

Class attendance

From the Cornell University Courses of Study,

Students are expected to be present throughout each term at all meetings of courses for which they are registered. The right to excuse a student from class rests at all times with the faculty member in charge of that class.

Class schedule and absences

From the Cornell University Faculty Handbook, available at

Students have an obligation to be present throughout each term at all meetings of courses for which they are registered. In some courses, such as physical education and courses in which participation in classroom discussion is considered vital, there may be penalties for absences per se or defined limits to absences, the exceeding of which leads to the student failing the course or receiving a grade of Incomplete. These rules are set by the department or instructor.

[...] It is harder to make up missed work if the class that was missed was a test or a laboratory session or field trip. Such makeups involve the direct cooperation of the instructor. If the instructor feels the absence was unjustified, he or she is not required to provide the student with the opportunity to make up the missed work.

There is no such thing as a “university excuse” for absence from class that frees a student from responsibility for the missed work. Only the instructor of a course can provide such an exemption to a student. And even the faculty member is not permitted (by legislation of the University Faculty) to cancel classes just before or after academic recesses without special approval of the dean of the school or college concerned. Each faculty member and instructor has the special responsibility of maintaining the regular quality and content of instruction in classes just before and after university vacations, regardless of the number of students present in the classroom.

There are some circumstances, however, in which faculty members are not supposed to penalize students directly for missing classes and are urged to try to make opportunities for the students to make up work that was missed. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, the following:

Illness, or family or personal emergency. The University expects that students will be honest with their professors about routine illnesses, injuries, and mental health problems that may lead to missed classes, labs, studios, exams, or deadlines. Academic advising staff and associate deans are available to provide assistance to students or faculty members who have concerns about attendance issues. See also the CU Health Excuse Policy at

Religious observances. The university is committed to supporting students who wish to practice their religious beliefs. Students are urged to discuss religious absences with their instructors well in advance of the religious holiday so that arrangements for making up work can be resolved before the absence. Faculty are urged to announce at the beginning of the semester all activities which, if missed, would require make up work. Please see complete statement at

Weather. During winter weather, “snow days” occasionally cause delay or cancellation of activities at the university. Times for making up missed activities in a coordinated way are publicly announced on such occasions. The local radio stations, The Cornell Daily Sun, the Cornell Chronicle, and other media convey the news.

Athletics and Extracurricular Activities. Students whose participation in varsity athletics or other recognized extracurricular activities requires occasional absences from the campus may present an appropriate slip or letter with the signature of a responsible official, attesting that the proposed absence is in connection with a recognized activity. In the case of athletics, the Faculty Advisory Committee on Athletics and Physical Education must approve the schedule of events and associated athletic leaves of absence each year, thus assuring that the athletic absences are kept within approved limits and guidelines.

From the University Council on Physical Education and Athletics:

General rules governing athletic events and leaves of absence

If your concerns are not addressed here, contact Jen Gudaz, Associate Director of Athletics and Physical Education (see College Contacts).

Each athletic event, whether individually or one of a season schedule, must be approved by the Faculty Advisory Committee on Athletics before the event is contested. Compliance with the following regulations may be assumed as requisite for such approval:

1. Leave time shall be defined as follows:

Leave before 10:00am = 1 day leave

Leave between 10–12noon = 3/4 day leave

Leave between 12–2pm = 1/2 day leave

Leave between 2–4:30pm = 1/4 day leave

Leave after 4:30pm = No leave

2. No home context shall be schedled during regular weekday daytime class hours (8:00 – 4:30) unless leave time is taken. This restriction does not apply to evening classes. Individual excuses will be issued for students missing evening prelims, evening classes, and Saturday morning classes. These excuses are not to be construed as leave and will not affect the total leave granted to any team.

3. Leave of absence for any varsity team shall not exceed five days in any one term, or eight days if the season extends over two terms. In the latter case, no more than five of the eight days of leave may be taken in one term. The interpretation of leave days shall exclude the counting of Saturday.

4. Exclusive of championship play, no more than one and one-half days leave shall be granted in any one calendar week for any sport.

5. No more than three dates of competition in a given sport shall be scheduled in any one week.

6. Travel to away contests shall ordinarily be scheduled so that buses and vans do not leave the campus on weekday afternoons until after regular class and laboratory hours, unless leave time is taken.

7. Not more than two away events involving leave of absence for an individual may be scheduled within any two calendar week period. This will be interpreted also as not permitting more than two consecutive weekend trips for any individual. Post season championship events are excluded from this policy.

8. Classes shall not be missed in order for a team to practice, unless leave time is taken.

Faculty Policies of Scheduling Academic Activities

Afternoon and evening scheduling

Certain hours shall be free from all formal undergraduate class exercises, including film screenings—4:25 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; after 4:25P.M. on Friday; after 12:05 P.M. on Saturday; and all day Sunday. In addition, classes may not meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.