While Iowa State has never canceled classes for the Iowa presidential caucus -- and will not be canceling classes for the 2020 edition on Feb. 3 -- students with a Monday evening class who want to attend a precinct caucus are encouraged to speak with their instructors to determine if they may be excused to attend.
"Faculty are in the best position to decide how to teach their classes and support students' needs," said senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert. "Decisions about whether to excuse class for events like the caucus, athletic contests or other events are best handled locally and on a case-by-case basis between faculty and students."
The 2020 caucus is the second since 2000 to conflict with Iowa State's class schedule. The 2012 and 2008 caucuses both were held during winter break, and the 2004 caucus was held on the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) federal holiday when classes already were canceled.
A policy for that
According to Faculty Senate president Jonathan Sturm, Iowa State has a comprehensive excused absence policy, developed by faculty, to address the wide variety of absences that come up over the course of the semester, including the caucus.
"Students are both welcomed and encouraged to speak with their instructors prior to the caucuses, or any planned absence, to determine if there is flexibility in class times, if their absence may be excused, or if provisions can be extended to make up coursework," he said.
Wickert noted that the situation for a three-hour laboratory that meets only on Monday nights is very different from a one-hour class that meets three times each week.
Impact in 2020
Students began registering for spring classes this week. For the spring 2020 semester, 38 course sections will meet Monday evenings between 7 and 9 p.m. and nearly all of the sections are Monday-only offerings. Students in these classes already have one less session for the semester since Iowa State won't hold classes Jan. 20 on the MLK federal holiday.
"Missing another week of a course represents a significant portion of the total time available for learning," Wickert said. "We need to be careful we're not shortchanging students on course content or compressing too much material into the remaining weeks of the semester."