By Miles Henderson
— Hundreds are expected to protest at today’s national climate strike in The Hague, where some AUC students are questioning the college’s decision to uphold their attendance policy.
Two days ago, an email was sent to all AUC students informing them that anyone participating in the climate strike must give lecturers advance notice of their absence – which would count towards a limit of five excused absences. This means that students with classes that begin after 11 a.m. would not be able to participate in the afternoon strike, which begins at 1 p.m. According to an online poll, close to eighty students will attend the strike despite the attendance policy being in effect. Whereas a facebook event, organised by the AUC chapter of Extinction Rebellion (XR), shows over a hundred students expressing an interest in attending.
Despite some interested students taking absences to participate in the strike, many are also choosing to stay in class. Vebjørn Bjelland Berg, a second-year Science major involved with XR, says “It [the absence policy] is definitely a big barrier, many people I’ve spoken to are not going because of class.” Berg believes that the Dean should be making an exception and notes that AUC management is not responding appropriately to the situation, “they act like they don’t realise how drastic the situation is.”
Wasutin Khodkaew, a third-year Social Science major, agreed with the decision – stating that the five absence policy ensures that students must put time management skills to practice. Khodkaew explains that he “fully support[s] initiatives to save the world” but would choose to forfeit one of his absences if he were to participate in a protest – believing that as an educational institution AUC should “stay neutral” in regards to politics. Additionally, Khodkaew says that “Not everyone [at AUC] considers themselves an activist. Not everyone wants to get involved in any of it.”
Last night, pressure from students culminated in an appeal by the Student Council to the Dean on the matter of granting an exception to the attendance policy for the strike. As of this morning, the appeal remains unanswered.
The Dean, Prof. Murray Pratt, reaffirmed the information sent to students two days ago, and stands firm on the decision to uphold AUC’s attendance policy. Prof. Pratt says that “At AUC we understand that many students feel that actions to raise awareness about the climate crisis are urgent and important,” but highlights the value of attendance in the liberal arts and sciences approach to learning. Additionally, Prof. Pratt explains that exemptions to the attendance policy can be granted after an appeal to the Board of Examiners under exceptional circumstances.
Further frustrations were voiced by a few students around the decision to cancel late-afternoon classes for AUC’s tenth anniversary Lustrum on the same day. In an online response to the news, some students commented on the management’s decision to make an exception for the celebration whilst upholding their attendance policy for the climate strike.
On the matter of cancelling afternoon classes, Prof. Pratt says that the decision was made in consideration of the students and alumni who are interested in participating in the celebrations, noting that today “marks a major milestone for our college.”
At 11:30 a.m. an email was sent to students informing them that if they were to exceed five absences that a formal appeal to the Board of Examiners, and the Dean of AUC should be made – adding that the Dean will “respond favourably” to any appeals relating to the climate strike.