Policies Governing Class Attendance

Some professors and departments are very strict about class attendance; others do not consider it part of the grading system. If the instructor determines a student has an excessive number of absences, the student’s final grade may be lowered. Some departments, the foreign languages in particular, have very precise rules for attendance.

  • A student who must miss five consecutive days or less of class at any point during the semester should notify the instructor as soon as possible using the Course Absence Report function of Penn InTouch (see below). 
  • A student who misses or anticipates missing more than five consecutive days of classes should contact the College Office as soon as possible.
  • Students are responsible for making up any work missed because of illness or extracurricular, career or athletic obligations.
  • Students should check Penn InTouch before the end of the Course Selection Period and before the end of the Drop period each semester to verify their schedule. Failure to attend a class for which one is registered does not result in being automatically dropped from the class.

Course Absence Reports are designed to provide a way for students to communicate with their instructors when medical issues, family emergencies, or other concerns necessitate missing class.

Students can log in to the CAR system from Penn InTouch and send a report to one or more instructors, indicating the number of days missed (up to a maximum of five days) and the general reason for the absence.

Instructors may opt to receive these notices by email, to view a digest of all submitted reports, or not to use the system at all. Each instructor will have a policy on class attendance (and on whether Course Absence Reports are required for their course) that will be communicated to students. Students who submit Course Absence Reports are still responsible for following up with the instructor about any missed work. Course Absence Reports do not constitute “excuses.”

NOTE: If a student misses or anticipates missing more than five days of classes, she or he should contact the College’s CaseNet team as soon as possible.

Why was the Course Absence Report created?

The purpose of the Course Absence Report (CAR) system is to facilitate communication between instructors and students when a student misses class. The system allows students to inform instructors about absences and makes it easier for instructors to manage information about absences in a course. Each course should have a clear policy for absences. In addition, the CAR system allows school advising offices to coordinate support for students who miss class.

What is the Course Absence Report System?

Course Absence Reports are tools to be used in the context of a course’s policy and process for managing absences up to five (5) days. For absences longer than five days, students should contact their school’s advising office. The system allows a student to notify instructors of an absence and to keep a record of the number of absences for each course. The CAR system allows a student to send notices through one, easily managed system that includes the reason for the absence.

Why should a student submit a Course Absence Report?

Students sometimes find themselves in circumstances that cause them to miss class meetings. Using the CAR system to notify instructors of any absences can help a student manage her or his performance in that class, and it also enables the student's school advising office to offer help when it is needed.

Why should an instructor use the Course Absence Report system?

Many Penn students are confused by the transition from high school where their absences were often “excused” due to medical or family reasons. The Course Absence Report system is meant to help foster a culture where students take responsibility for attending class and meeting their academic obligations. When students are unable to do so, they should expect to communicate with their instructors.

Instructors should clearly communicate their expectations regarding class attendance and how or whether students are expected to use the CAR system. The CAR system also facilitates tracking absences for an individual student, tracking absences in a course over a term, and identifying students who may be having difficulty in a course through one, easily managed system that includes both an email record and a record in Courses InTouch.

If no documentation is provided, how will an instructor determine whether the reason for the absence is legitimate?

Students are explicitly informed at the time they submit a Course Absence Report that their use of this system is governed by Penn's Code of Academic Integrity. Students who submit false information through the CAR system may be charged by the Office of Student Conduct with a violation of this Code.

The CAR system emphasizes the personal responsibility of the student - in reporting absences honestly, in making up missed work when possible, and in seeking appropriate help when absences cause problems academically.

Please see the Code of Academic Integrity.

Why are students not able to write comments in CAR?

A Course Absence Report is meant to be the starting point of a discussion. If more detailed information needs to be provided, the student should speak directly with the instructor.

How should instructors handle the documentation of absences?

Each course should have a syllabus with a clearly stated policy on attendance. If a student is absent for longer than five days, the instructor should work with the student's school advising office to determine what support the student needs and/or what documentation should be provided to the school advising office. Documentation verifying illness or other reasons for missing class is not provided through the Course Absence Report system. Health information is considered private. Instructors should not request documentation verifying illness directly from students.

How do Course Absence Reports work for midterm exams?

Each course should have a clear policy and process when students miss a midterm exam. Some instructors may wish to use Course Absence Reports as a tool for managing missed midterm exams. Students should contact the instructor of a class if the policy and process for missing a midterm exam is unclear or unknown.

How do Course Absence Reports work for final exams?

Course Absence Reports do not work during Final Exams. Students should contact the instructor immediately if they anticipate missing a final exam.

Who has access to the Course Absence Reports?

The only people who receive information about a Course Absence Report are the student submitting a report, instructors for those courses included in the report, and authorized administrators in the student’s school advising office.

The University observes the following holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, and New Year's Day.

The University also recognizes that there are several religious holidays that affect large numbers of University community members.

See the University’s policy on Secular and Religious Holidays.