University of Virginia faculty members go to great lengths to work with students through every kind of life experience, whether it is a broken leg, a death in the family or a pregnancy. Our primary goal is for our students to succeed. And they will do everything they can to make that happen while maintaining academic integrity.
And they would never suggest, nor did Dr. Dexter suggest, to a pregnant student that she have a cesarean section in order to work around an attendance policy. This allegation, as was reported in a recent story headlined "pregnant graduate students shocked by UVA treatment," is simply ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the story also left out some significant information that would have put it in a very different light. These facts were communicated to the reporter covering this story.
The class schedule in the Northern Virginia Center is designed for adult learners, such as those with full-time jobs and families. This particular semester-long class met only six times: three evening sessions and three two-day sessions. The attendance policy set by the School of Continuing and Professional Studies is that a student cannot complete the course while missing 25 percent or more of the class. In Dr. Dexter's class, the 25 percent threshold is met when missing one two-day weekend session.
As is prone to happen in any class, a number of students in Dr. Dexter's class—due to a variety of personal matters--faced the possibility of missing more than 25 percent of class, which according to policy, could mean a failing grade. Because it is up to the discretion of the professor, Dr. Dexter told each student that, should it become necessary, she would assign an incomplete but not without providing them with two options on how to make up the course requirements and complete the class. As warranted, Dr. Dexter offered students further accommodations like extended deadlines to work around their personal situations.
In March, the student in question consulted two other faculty program directors at the Curry School -- Dr. Pamela Tucker and Dr. Jim Esposito -- on the matter of missing 25 percent of class time. After discussions between Drs. Tucker and Esposito, the student and Dr. Dexter, the student communicated her understanding of the attendance policy, and appreciation for efforts to work with her should the need arise.
While it may have been an option for another professor's class, videotaping the sessions in lieu of being present was not possible for Dr. Dexter's class, as it was not a lecture-only class but also included a variety of learning exercises, such as case studies and simulations that could not have been adequately captured on videotape, nor would participation in a group have been replicated by watching the videotape.
We understand that when personal matters take precedence over completing a class on time, it can be stressful for students—especially when not completing that class can delay graduation. Our faculty do whatever they can to help students in these circumstances finish on time while maintaining academic integrity of their classes. Sometimes, however, students must complete requirements later than originally planned, which can be a great disappointment to them.
We make every effort to address concerns of our students and offer many avenues for their reporting those concerns. After this student expressed satisfaction with the offered options, she made no further efforts to modify the agreement she made with Dr. Dexter or discuss it with other faculty or administrators. Since she missed no classes and finished on time, we were surprised by the allegations made through the media after the course ended. We take all allegations seriously, however, and have contacted the student in an effort to understand the student's concerns.