Military Student Services provides guidance on military students called to assist in coronavirus efforts

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Evan Culbertson

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered or halted nearly every aspect of everyday life, but for WKU students who are also enlisted in the military, even larger shifts in day-to-day living may be approaching.

Over 2,000 students at WKU are connected to the military in some form, and the continued uptick in coronavirus cases and the ever-tightening government response has left students and faculty, especially those enlisted in the National Guard, questioning how the outlook of their semester will continue to shift. 

In an email sent out to faculty and administration on March 25, Kent Johnson, director of WKU military student services, informed teachers to prepare for the possibility of their students being called to assist in state efforts as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

The notice served to update teachers on the protocol surrounding students called to service and to help answer questions on how to approach the instruction of these students if such a situation arises.

In the notice, Johnson cited two WKU policies regarding the matter, the first being “Military Absence Policy for Official Military Duties and Veteran Administration Medical Appointments.”

The policy touches on the protocol instructors can follow if one of their students is called to duty, particularly stressing the importance of instructors refraining from punishing students for potentially missing time in service of their country.

“Instructors are expected to show flexibility to Military and Veteran students who have required absences due to military duties or Veteran Administration medical appointments,” the policy states. “These absences are mandated and beyond the students’ control. Instructors should not penalize absences of this type in any way. Accommodations and specific time frames to make up all missed assignments, quizzes, and tests will be given and mutually agreed upon by the instructor and student.”

The policy gives enlisted students leeway regarding assignments they may miss while in active duty, but later goes on to state the responsibility of the student in notifying teachers if the situation were to arise.

“Students are responsible for notifying faculty members of absences as far in advance as possible, when possible, and for ensuring that their absence is documented,” the policy states. “Absences can be verified by official orders, appointment notifications, or through the Office of Military Student Services.”

The second policy cited in the email was the “Military Withdrawal” policy, which focuses on the importance of student-teacher communication in regards to what actions and steps need to be taken in the event of a student being called to service.

“Students who are members of any branch of the United States Armed Services, including the National Guard, who are called to active duty while enrolled at WKU are entitled to the following options: Students may work with each individual instructor to determine if an incomplete grade is appropriate, or if an incomplete grade is not a viable option, the student will be permitted to withdraw either from individual courses or from the entire schedule of classes,” the policy states.

The policy also covers the protocol for tuition money in the event that an enlisted student opts to withdraw from any or all of their scheduled courses.

“A full refund of tuition and fees will be issued for those courses from which the student has withdrawn,” the policy states. “Students who are called to active duty while enrolled should contact the Office of the Registrar to initiate the withdrawal process. An official copy of the military orders must be presented to invoke this special withdrawal and refund process.”

For additional information, contact Kent Johnson at (270) 745-4163 or [email protected]

Reporter Evan Culbertson can be reached at [email protected] Follow Evan on Twitter at @evan_culbertson.