Starting from the 2018 spring semester, the trial run of the “Menstrual Absence” policy will be carried out for a year before its official implementation. In the past, absences due to menstrual could be excused only in the form of absences due to medical conditions. Due to unclear standards, this method entailed many administrative complications, causing inconvenience for many female students. The Undergraduate Student Council (USC) has judged that menstruation, which exists as a separate issue from conventional medical problems, should be covered by school policies as well. The Menstrual Absence policy will therefore allow students to have menstrual absences officially excused without any attendance score penalties.
In the student survey carried out in April, around 90% of students agreed to the implementation of the Menstrual Absence policy. However, many expressed concern about the potential for reverse discrimination against male students, and pointed out that the loose standards could lead to abuse of the policy.
Several universities in Korea such as Seoul National University, Korea University, and Hanyang University currently have active menstrual absence policies. In 2008, Sogang University abolished its menstrual absence policy because students would take advantage of it to gain a free day off from school. To prevent the occurrence of such issues, Hanyang University has strengthened their policies to make it more difficult for students to receive the excused absence; students are to submit a doctor’s note with their applications to professors and the school.
In order to establish a policy that all members of KAIST could agree with, the USC carried out case studies of these universities, which analyzed the complexity and feasibility of each example. After consultation with the KAIST Clinic, the female professors’ committee, and female welfare student organizations, the USC held discussion sessions regarding the feasibility of the policy and administrative procedures with the Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Student Affairs.
Upon discussion, the heads of office have agreed on a final proposal. The student will first have to apply for a menstrual absence on the KAIST Portal. Professors will be automatically notified by mail upon application, and application records will be available for the professor, TAs, and the applicant to access. A student is allowed only four menstrual absences per semester, and a minimum period of two weeks should exist between applications. For the sake of privacy protection, only the applicant herself, the professor, and the TA in charge of attendance will be able to view the menstrual absence application; the disclosure of personal information beyond necessity will be forbidden administratively.
The current agreement is to carry out a trial run of the Menstrual Absence policy throughout 2018 using the system outlined above, and to officially implement the system the following year after necessary amendments. The trial run will most likely lack a computerized and automated system, and is therefore expected to encounter many limitations. The USC stated that it will inform professors about the new policy and provide students with a more detailed procedure for application before the commencement of the trial run.