OPINION: DePauw should cancel classes that conflict with memorial services for members of our community

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Nicole DeCriscio is a junior 
philosophy major from
Fort Wayne, Indiana. 
CHRISTA SCHRODEL / THE DEPAUW

It’s no secret that DePauw University prides itself in being a close-knit community. But the lack of any action to free students from academic obligations so they could attend Megan Hammerle’s memorial service at Gobin last night goes against that.

DePauw has some night classes, albeit, this number is fewer than other universities such as Indiana University or Purdue University. But, DePauw does have six classes that meet on Monday and Wednesday nights with roughly 74 students. And, DePauw has 14 classes that meet on Tuesday and Thursday nights with roughly 124 students.

In a “close-knit community” students should never have to choose between going to class or their grades and paying their respects at a memorial service for a member of said community. No student should ever have to choose between academics and showing love and support for other members of our community who are grieving.

The administration should have at minimum encouraged professors to cancel classes yesterday evening on an individual basis.

The faculty, as a whole, should have cancelled classes to show support to students dealing with this loss. They voted last semester to cancel classes for a day to address grievances concerning multicultural inclusiveness. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have cancelled classes for a multicultural inclusiveness discussion day. Instead, what I am saying is that they also should have cancelled classes for those who are grieving.

Furthermore, I hope that individual professors excused the absences last night for those who wanted to attend the memorial service. These absences shouldn’t be included in the limited absences that are granted before negative consequences occur.

It might be that it was generally assumed and hoped by both the faculty and the administration that if a student said that they wanted to attend the memorial service instead of class that each individual professor would honor that, and therefore, no set policy was needed. While I too share these hopes, I don’t think whether or not a student is penalized for missing class to attend a memorial service should be left up to the benevolence and empathy of a professor.

How can DePauw claim to be such a close community when they can’t even cancel classes for one evening so the community can come together to support one another through a difficult time? The answer is we can’t. The inaction of the administration and the faculty as a whole directly contradicts this claim.

It’s not often that our community has to deal with a death. Earlier in the academic year, professor Rick Hillis passed away. Classes should have been cancelled then too, because the memorial service was scheduled for a Tuesday night. As far as I know, before Hillis passed away, the last time our community faced a death was Marshall Matthew’s death in 2011. Deaths within the DePauw community are rare.

Maybe forcing students to make a choice is preparing them for the real world, in which you may not be able to get time off work to go to a funeral or memorial service. It’s a valid point, but I’m not sure this is a lesson that college ought to attempt to teach students. I would hope that rather than trying to constantly teach life lessons, that DePauw would uphold its promise to make its students thinkers. I would hope that DePauw would create an environment that allows for both freedom and failure that isn’t fatal. It isn’t like having someone else cook, clean and mow the lawn for us prepare us for the real world either. So what is the motivation to prepare us for the real world by not letting us come together to mourn?

I only know Megan through the stories that my friends tell of her, but I went last night so that I could be there for my friends. Because 20 years from now, the lecture or lesson that I missed won’t matter, but knowing that I was able to support people that I care about when they were grieving will.