13 attendance policy

This viewpoint was written in response to a letter to the editor written by Professor Loewe, who cautioned against a consumerist view of college education.

Imposing an attendance policy on students and professors is arbitrary and problematic. It supposes that students don’t have enough incentive to go to class without being threatened with a penalty (in addition to losing out on an engaging lecture), and it discourages them from taking responsibility for their education.

Professors should emphasize that attendance is necessary for success in the class without insisting on a “three free absences rule.”

The notion that life is going to predictably intervene with class schedules three times or less is absurd and only promotes the idea that education is something quantifiable and uniform; i.e if you attend X number of classes, you will gain Y amount of knowledge which will result in good grades and eventually a degree.

This formulaic approach is not realistic and is harmful to students who have learned to expect their decisions to be guided by the university.

Students have to juggle classes, jobs, internships, and all the other extracurriculars they’re encouraged to participate in. Sometimes they miss class because they’re picking up an extra shift to pay rent or send money home to their parents. Sometimes a fourth absence is necessary.

Most serious students worry about missing class because they’re worried about missing content; not because of the points that will be deducted per syllabus rules.

Some students see the three absence rule as a challenge: they calculate how many classes they can afford to miss before they suffer the loss of a letter grade and plan their subsequent efforts in the class accordingly.

On the other end, there are students who are simply apathetic. It’s unlikely students who are chronically absent are likely to change their habits because of an attendance policy.

Professors are competent enough to construct their own classes and provide their own guidelines for their course.

Similarly, students should be expected to be competent enough to follow guidelines.

If they aren’t going to class, then it should be reflected in their grade — attendance policy or not.

If St. Edward’s is really interested in educating the “whole person,” then it needs to allow students to make mistakes, instead of coddling them into thinking that they shouldn’t.

Furthermore, students shouldn’t be applauded for showing up and blanking out.

Most professors use a grading formula that factors in “participation,” but sometimes the students who contribute most to the course miss more classes than the ones who attend devoutly and say very little, making attendance an inaccurate gauge of student merit.

Students show up to class half-asleep and half-functioning when they should really be taking a day off, but the attendance policy suggests that mental absence is more tolerable than physical absence.

It must be especially annoying to professors who let their students use electronics in class; inevitably students’ attention drifts from the lecture to the screen, which is a kind of absence. Are those students really present?

Attendance policies contribute to a consumerist view of higher education in the sense that they encourage a narrow understanding of what it means to be truly educated, which goes way beyond going to class and getting a grade; even beyond getting a degree.

Next time I miss class to take a beach trip, I’ll gladly accept points off my grade.