As Baylor seeks to be the “caring community” expressed in and expected by our mission and heritage, administrators, faculty, and staff communicate in an ongoing way regarding students who are in need. Here in the Office of the University Chaplain, we are charged, not only to offer direct care to our students but also to prompt the caring response of others in the Baylor Community. Daily we make calls and send emails, to share timely information about students who may be in a crisis or who are dealing with a particular and pressing need about which some in the community need to be aware.
Much of our communication comes in the form of “notifications” to faculty members. These are essential communications and because of the frequency of these notifications (and perhaps because of experience in other institutions) some confusion develops about the role the Chaplain’s office plays.
In order to clarify our role you will see below the relevant portion of Baylor’s Class Attendance policy and then a few answers to questions that may be on the minds of some faculty members.
Class Attendance Policy (paragraph 5)
In the event of serious illness, accident, or death in the family, students should contact their professors as soon as they are able. When such a crisis prohibits the student from being able to make immediate contact, the office of the Chaplain notifies faculty when information is available; the Chaplain, does not, however, pursue official verification of such reports. Requests by faculty to verify the nature of an absence should be made to the student upon the student's return. Students are usually allowed to make up classwork and/or tests missed that result from such crises. As these instances are academic matters, any dishonesty on the part of a student in such a situation is considered a violation of the University Honor Code.
No! As the policy states above, students should be in touch directly with their professors. However, students can be encouraged to contact us if pastoral care is needed (710-4276). Students can also be referred to the Baylor Counseling Center (710-2467) and also to Baylor’s case management office (710-7069) whose work is centered in compassionately helping students access resources at Baylor.
We do so when students are in a significant crisis, perhaps because they have been hospitalized or are trying to recover from or deal with a difficult and ongoing medical problem. We certainly want to notify when there is a death in the immediate family. In essence we want to, for a time, take that burden off of some students, while at the same time guiding others to take the initiative they need to take in communicating with faculty and others at Baylor.
There are two reasons for our notifications, the first is to prompt the caring response of others in our community. The second, is to help faculty and others on campus, make decisions regarding how to proceed with academic requirements or other matters that may be at stake because a student is in crisis.
No! However, in some cases, our office (along with others on campus) can be a helpful conversation partner as a professor is discerning how to respond to a student. For instance, with a student’s permission, we can confirm what a student has shared with us regarding the nature of their crisis. We can also share, with their permission, what we have observed and what we know to be true as we have walked alongside the student. However, we do not “excuse” an absence nor are we charged, as the policy makes clear, with investigating in order to verify what a student has reported to our office.