Guardsman Files Grievance Over Missed Exam


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- University of Northern Iowa leaders said they stand behind a National Guard specialist who has filed a grievance against a professor who he said refused to allow him to make up a test he missed while attending an out-of-state Guard drill.

Freshman James Roethler said he missed the test because the Iowa Army National Guard required him to attend a four-day weapons certification drill in Wisconsin beginning Oct. 19. The soldiers' bus left for Wisconsin Oct. 18. If he had failed to attend the training he would have been considered absent without leave, or AWOL, and been disciplined accordingly.

Roethler said psychology professor Cathy DeSoto told him and another soldier they would have to take a zero on the test, which had originally been slated for Oct. 17, but was moved to Oct. 19. However, as part of the class policy, students are allowed to drop their lowest score from the final grade.

In addition to the makeup test, Roethler is hoping the grievance will also force university officials to reconsider their policy. The Faculty Senate leadership has agreed to review the policies in question as soon as possible.

"The reason we both really didn't want to take the dropped test route is because if we have another drill or another obligation, that policy doesn't state if a natural disaster happens and we get called up to help the National Guard in that time of disaster that still doesn't cover it," Roethler said.

Roethler said he has forwarded the grievance information to that student as well. He could not be reached for comment.

DeSoto, in a prepared statement, said that UNI "does not have professors who would have policies that would have undue negative influence on students who miss classes for reasonable purposes, in which National Guard duty clearly applies."

"It should be obvious that no professor would ever have a policy that a missed exam in such circumstances would result in a zero or anything like that. To imply otherwise is libelous," she said.

She added that she was unable to be more specific about the details in this case because university policy prohibits professors from discussing individual student's academic performance. She said, however, that the policy in place requires students to "make a good-faith effort to talk to the professor and try to resolve the concerns informally" and that was not done.

"Instead, the student appears to be attempting to try this case in the press providing what appears to be partial information," she said.

Roethler said he went to DeSoto on Oct. 15 to discuss a possible makeup exam.

UNI President Ben Allen said in a prepared statement that he "strongly disagrees with the decision made by the professor in this case."

"We have been working with the student involved from the beginning, and continue to work with him to help ensure he won't be penalized for serving his country," Allen said.

The university has more than 250 military and veteran students on campus.

For three years UNI has been chosen by G.I. Jobs Magazine as a "Military Friendly School," an honor placing the university in the top 15 percent of schools doing the most to embrace veteran's as students.

According to the university's policy student body president Jordan Bancroft-Smith must convene a meeting with: Roethler; DeSoto; Carolyn Hildebrandt, the Department of Psychology head; and at least two tenured faculty members and one student who have agreed to sit on the grievance committee.

Bancroft-Smithe said he is currently arranging the meeting which must take place before the end of the day Oct. 29.

Bancroft-Smithe said the group will attempt to reach an "informal resolution."If that is not possible the issue will be sent along to another committee which will make a final decision on the matter.

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