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U Students Postpone School and Graduation to Serve in War

April 30, 2003 — Twenty-three-year-old Eric Alder enrolled in winter semester at the University of Utah and was planning to graduate in economics this Friday, May 2. He was in the process of filling out the forms for his commencement cap and gown when his U.S. Marine Corps reserve unit-“Charlie Company”-was called up in March to assist with the war effort in Iraq. Instead of donning graduation robes this week, he is fulfilling various assignments in Iraq while enduring 110-degree heat.

According to University Registrar Ralph Boren, Alder is one of 55 University Reserve/Guard students who notified his office of their deployment. “There may be other students we don’t know about who withdrew from school without formally notifying us,” he says.

Boren notes the University’s policy regarding students who are called to active military duty offers a number of options. Where appropriate, students may make arrangements with an instructor to complete the course work for a grade prior to departure for service. At the discretion of the instructor, students may also make arrangements to receive an incomplete-an “I”-grade for one or more classes and then finish the class upon their return. (These arrangements are handled on a case-by-case basis, and some restrictions apply.) Military students may withdraw from one or more courses or choose any combination of these options that fits their individual needs. A full tuition refund is granted to students who properly withdraw from classes after receiving official orders that activate them for military service before the semester or summer term ends. In order to receive a refund under these circumstances, a student is required to submit a copy of the activation orders to the Income Accounting Office.

University student Jed Clarke, a 22-year-old history and political science major, followed this procedure when he withdrew from his five classes in March after receiving military orders to serve in a postal unit in the Middle East. He received a full tuition refund.

Clarke joined the U.S. Army Reserve on a whim at the end of his freshman year, in the fall of 1999. Jessica Clarke, his wife of six months, explains that while Jed doesn’t regret his decision, the irony of his story is that he joined the Reserve to help him pay for and attend college, a goal that keeps getting derailed mostly due to his military obligations.

Over the last four years Clarke has been required to attend basic and specialized training, some of which occurred in South Korea. He was deployed during spring semester last year to work the Salt Lake City Olympics. “Now he can’t go to school,” Jessica, a U biochemistry student, explains. “It is upsetting to him that he hasn’t been able to attend two semesters consecutively. He should have graduated last spring, in 2002. Because he will return home sometime between November and January, he will miss fall semester and maybe even next spring semester. He’s in Ft. Lewis, Wash., now. He wants to get to the Middle East as soon as possible so he can get home sooner.”

Alder opted to work with his professors to take an “I” and will finish his coursework upon his return to Utah. His mother, Coralie Alder, who works at the University, says, “University professors and the Dean of Students Office have been tremendously supportive of Eric and other students who have been deployed. The University has honored and respected the students’ commitment to their coursework as well as their commitment to serve in the military.”

At the February meeting of the University’s Academic Senate, University President Bernie Machen said that although the University is imposing an enrollment freeze for next year, students who leave school for military duty will be allowed to re-enroll at the University upon their return.

John Boswell, director of admissions for the University, says it is unlikely that students returning from the war would join U courses mid-semester, however they may opt to enroll in a group of classes offered in the second session of the semester.

For more information on the University’s policies on withdrawing from the University mid-semester to fulfill active duty assignments, go to or