UNI President Says Student Shouldn't be Penalized for Military Service

By Diane Heldt, Reporter

Fort Dodge Army National Guard Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, First Battalion, 194th Field Artillery members get ready to hook their humvee to a Company F, 106th Aviation's Chinook aircraft Saturday, June 13, 1998 during training exercises at the Fort Dodge, Iowa, National Gaurd grounds. (AP Photo/The Messenger, Kellie Smedsrud)


By Liz Blood

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - A hearing for a University of Northern Iowa student who filed a grievance about a missed test due to military service has yet to be scheduled, UNI's student government president said Thursday.

The student, James Roethler, filed the grievance this week after he says a professor did not allow him to make up a test last week when he missed a Friday class for National Guard training. UNI policy allows students to appeal an instructor's decision regarding make-up work.

Under the grievance process, Student Government President Jordan Bancroft-Smithe will gather the instructor, the student, the department head, at least two tenured faculty and one student in an attempt to facilitate a resolution.

Roethler, 20, says he missed a psychology test in the class of Professor Cathy DeSoto last week, when his National Guard duty ran Thursday through Sunday and he missed the Friday class. Roethler, a freshman majoring in psychology, said he asked to make up the test but was told he could not, so he filed the grievance in an attempt to make up the work.

He said he hopes the process determines that "the reason I missed it was a good enough reason to retake the test."

But DeSoto, in a written statement, said UNI does not have professors who would have policies that would have undue negative influence on students who miss classes for reasonable purposes, "of which National Guard duty clearly applies." It should be obvious, she said, that no professor would ever have a policy that a missed exam in such circumstances would result in a zero or a failing grade. Professors can't comment on academic performance related to particular students, which makes it impossible for her to be more specific, DeSoto said in the statement.

"UNI has policies related to when students feel that a class policy is unfair. I strongly support that procedure," she said. "The policy requires the student to make a good faith effort to talk to the professor and try to resolve concerns informally. This has not been done, instead the student appears to be attempting to try the case in the press, providing what appears to be partial information." DeSoto added she supports all policies and the appeal process.

UNI has policies that address student attendance and the grievance process for decisions on make-up work. The attendance policy says faculty "have the discretion to determine the reasonableness of an absence."

That policy also states that absences due to extenuating circumstances, either predetermined or unexpected, may be deemed reasonable by the faculty member. Such absences include, though are not limited to, illness; significant personal emergency; bereavement; jury duty; military service; and mandatory religious observances, according to the policy.

UNI President Ben Allen this week said he strongly disagrees with the decision by the professor regarding the missed test, and that Faculty Senate leadership has agreed to review the policies in question as soon as possible. UNI has a "long and proud history of supporting military and veteran students," Allen said.

"As university president and a veteran, I strongly disagree with the decision made by the professor in this case," he said. "We have been working with the student involved from the beginning, and continue to work with him to help ensure he won't be penalized for serving his country."

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