Office serves as students’ S.O.S.

Students can face a lot of unavoidable problems during the semester that prevent them from going to class or missing tests and assignments. With midterms quickly approaching, many students have found they have run out of their allotted absences for a class and are panicking about how to catch up.

The Office of Student-Oriented Services at Southern Miss is a valuable resource to students facing circumstances that force them to miss classes or are considering withdrawing from the university.

Located in Room 221 in the R.C. Cook Union, The Office of Student-Oriented Services is dedicated to helping students with issues that may interfere with academics. This office is the first place students contact when an issue arises, and staff members work to help students or direct them to the correct department.

“The Office of Student-Oriented Services is designed to be a point of contact for parents and students when students have extenuating circumstances that may prohibit them, for the short-term or long-term, from being able to attend class or some issues they may have medically that may deal with their enrollment,” said Alfreda Horton, coordinator of The Office of Student-Oriented Services.

Many students may not be aware of the services provided by The Office of Student-Oriented Services because it was previously operated under the assistant to the vice president for student affairs.

“My role is to help guide them through the university systems, policies and procedures that impact their being able to remain enrolled or enroll again,” Horton said.

She stressed the importance of communication when students have to miss classes or want to request makeup assignments. Often, students are afraid to be open with professors, but being honest about problems is usually better than not saying anything.

The office cannot override department attendance policies, but it can help students by presenting documentation of illness or death in  family, and then ask professors for consideration of that documentation. The Office of Student-Oriented Services also works to help students who have to miss classes because of military training. These students are also required to present training documentation to professors.

Horton said students are referred to her office for a number of reasons, but missing classes because of an illness is the most common issue. Students also seek help when they have a death in the family that has affected their attendance, or have other emergency situations or required court appearances.

Horton said all of these issues can be considered, but students must have documentation to show professors to receive fair consideration.

Horton advises students who are considering withdrawing from the university to carefully review policies and all implications of withdrawing, and to make sure they withdraw properly to avoid problems if they return to USM.

Horton said students will sometimes just leave, thinking that they can come back next semester, and don’t realize the effect this can have on the rest of their academic and financial lives.

“Speak to someone first- don’t just leave, and then not come back. There are steps that have to be taken for you to get back in. You are jeopardizing your financial aid, you are jeopardizing academics.  Just know that there is a proper way to withdraw from the university,” she said.

To contact the office, visit www.usm.edu/dos and follow the link to Student Oriented-Services, where you can also download the Excused Absence Form.

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