ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Some military students at the University of Alaska Anchorage claim they're having to choose between mandatory duties and university class attendance -- a choice they say could be avoided.
For the last eight years, SSgt. Nichole Tovar has been serving in the Army Reserves, and for three of those years she says she had no trouble balancing Army duty and classes at UAA. That all changed this semester, when Tovar says she had to choose between required military training and a final exam.
When she approached the dean about the situation, Tovar says the next day her professor singled her out, displaying Tovar's emails in front of her peers.
“I felt like I was being picked on after that, when she called me up to the front of the class and explained to the class, ‘This lady here is trying to reschedule [her final] -- look at her,’” said Tovar.
The university says that was an isolated incident and the situation has been dealt with, but Tovar says it made her realize there was no protection for the 1,300 military students attending UAA.
Tammy Cartwright, the president of the UAA Veterans Club, says there needs to be more awareness of the unique situation facing military students.
“Other students like athletes, they have the ability to pre-register before the pre-register and military students don’t have that option,” Cartwright said. “So a lot of times when they go to sign up for classes, a lot of them are closed, and when they don’t have a certain amount of credits then they don’t get their GI Bill or they can’t continue on.”
UAA’s current attendance policy states: "Students participating in official intercollegiate activities on behalf of UAA, including but not limited to competition in athletics, forensics and performing arts, are responsible for making advance arrangements with faculty members to enable them to meet course requirements. Faculty are encouraged to make reasonable accommodations for such students. In some cases accommodations may not be possible.”
Bruce Schults, UAA’s vice chancellor for student affairs, says the policy means faculty are not required to accommodate any certain group.
“There are some situations where it's just not acceptable for students to miss a class, and to have a blanket policy that doesn't seem feasible,” said Schultz.
Tovar says there needs to be a policy in place to prevent what she experienced from happening to anyone else.
“I don’t see a problem with five days max or something to that effect, that if we get called away to duty we don’t have to be scared we're going to lose all that time we invested at UAA,” said Tovar.
Schultz says the university fully supports military students and has services available that are growing, like counseling.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s chief of education services and training says it's up to each individual school to determine what, if any, protections and special accommodations are afforded to military members.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org