Make military policy clear

By Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier


The University of Northern Iowa considers itself a “military-friendly” institution and has been designated as such by a military-related magazine.

The university also takes pride in providing personal support and assistance to all military service members. So we hope that perception and designation aren’t impacted by recent developments.

National Guard Specialist James Roethler, a UNI freshman who has served a tour in Afghanistan, 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.

If true, such a denial wouldn’t seem to mix with university intentions.

Included in the UNI website is a link titled “Resources for Military/Veterans and Their Families.”

The last two sentences on that page read:

“With veterans becoming an increasingly important part of the student body, we are continually enhancing our services to meet your unique educational and personal needs and responsibilities. You can trust UNI to provide military-friendly service at all levels.”

Roethler’s responsibilities included a four-day National Guard drill in Wisconsin.

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

He added: “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.”

For the past three years, UNI has been included in the Military Friendly Schools List published by G.I. Jobs magazine, which recognizes the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are supporting the educational pursuits of veterans. We can be proud that the state university in this community is recognized on that list.

Roethler said psychology professor Cathy DeSoto told him and another soldier they would have to take a zero on the test. However, as a part of the class policy, students are allowed to drop their lowest score from the final grade.

If this were the only issue, it would be our belief that any Guard member, missing a test because of Guard responsibilities, should be allowed the opportunity to take each and every test.

“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 the National Guard in that time of disaster that still doesn’t cover it,” Roethler said.

That seems reasonable enough.

For her part, DeSoto said, in a prepared statement, 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.”

DeSoto says 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.

Roethler, on the other hand, said he went to DeSoto on Oct. 15 to discuss a possible makeup exam.

So, we don’t know all the particulars and it is our hope that those are made clear through this grievance process.

In the end, this may be an instance where the university — in continued efforts to be military-friendly — needs to set an institution-wide policy, instead of leaving such decisions to individual instructors.


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