The attendance policy of every course is determined by the faculty member and must be included in the syllabus and made clear to all students. As an in-person institution at the undergraduate level, Emerson advises faculty to consider the following when determining their attendance policies:

  • How many absences make it impossible for students to achieve the learning goals for the course? 
  • How can students make-up work from a missed class without placing undue burden on the faculty member? 


  1. We advise against faculty asking for doctor’s notes or other proof of illness. This puts the faculty member in the role of judging what is/is not legitimate, and also runs the risk of revealing private medical information. In the interest of consistency and fairness, we encourage the faculty member to maintain an up-to-date record of students’ absences.
  2. We recommend against allowing students to “zoom into” classes, and if you do, we suggest that zooming-in should not count as attendance. We are an in-person institution at the undergraduate level.
  3. The syllabus should state the options students have for making up the content of a class missed during an absence. This could include meeting during office hours, completing a separate assignment, zooming-in, or getting notes from classmates. 
  4. On rare occasions, a class session may be better held remotely; for example, if the class time includes a speaker who is on Zoom. Inform the department chair or program director if there is a plan to hold a remote class session. Additionally, consider that students often have other classes immediately before or after this particular class, and thus may have challenges in switching modalities. 
  5. If the instructor cannot teach a class in person due to illness or research travel, inform the chair as soon as possible. In some instances, one may be able to teach the class remotely. Again, this should only happen on rare occasions and with the prior approval of the chair. 
  6. Note that these policies are exclusive of any Student Accessibility Services accommodations. 
  7. At the graduate level, some programs are online or low-residency, and those courses should follow the appropriate in-person/remote attendance guidance in place for the specific program.

Finally, in a continuing effort to make our classrooms more equitable and welcoming for students of all backgrounds, one should take into consideration dates that have a religious observance or practice. Here is a guide prepared by Julie Avis Rogers and Tuesda Roberts. One possible addition to the syllabus could be, “If you have a religious observance or practice that impacts the calendar below, please see me as soon as possible to discuss how we may make appropriate arrangements.”