Editorial: Attendance policies can be too strict

StudentAttendaneComic.jpgMany universities do not have a required attendance policy. Although Baylor has no university-wide attendance requirement, its policy states, “Specific policies for attendance are established by the academic units within the university.” In other words, Baylor’s attendance policy is established by different academic schools and colleges such as the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Social Work.

Most schools kept the university’s original 75 percent rule, which was done away with May 5, 2011. The rule states a student must attend 75 percent of classes regardless of excused and unexcused absences. This means students get seven absences in a normal Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday class and 11 absences in a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class. That’s about three and a half weeks of classes.

That would be fine, but the policy also states, “Faculty members may establish more stringent requirements regarding attendance, punctuality and participation.”

So even though we live with an attendance policy most of our other peer institutions don’t have, we also have faculty members who punish students even further for missing class.

The specific school and college mandated attendance policies are sufficient for encouraging students to come to class. Missing class is inevitable due to sickness, personal problems or even accidents.

For example, by penalizing students who miss more than two classes, professors are penalizing students for something that will most likely happen.

Students will get sick. Things will come up and the students are going to miss even if it hurts their grade. They might even show up for class so that they aren’t penalized, but not pay attention. If they are contagious they could pass on their sickness to everyone else in the class.

Attendance should not hurt a student’s grade until the student reaches the maximum number of absences allotted.

Scientific studies have also associated class attendance as one of the biggest indicators of how well students do in a course, but students who want to do well in a class will make the effort to come to class. Students who don’t take the effort to come to class will either not do well or do perfectly fine, which means they didn’t need to be present during the lecture anyway.

A student’s grade should not be lowered by a letter or two for attendance. Our grades are meant to be an indication of how well we know the material — not how often we made it to class.

Finally, there is the argument that going to class is just good for you. But is it always the best thing for students? If a student is sick and contagious with strep throat, is it advisable for a student to come to class because if the student misses one class or however many classes, the professor will start deducting points? Should the student go to class and risk infecting the entire class just so he or she doesn’t get a point deduction?

For students who rely on their grades to get them to graduate or professional school or even just students who care deeply about their grades, yes, they just might. Is going to class good for you at that point when you should be at home resting and not infecting the rest of your class? Probably not.

Or if a student is not feeling well or distracted because of a personal issue, is it better that a student goes to class even if he or she just sits in the corner and nods off during class or even just sits on his or her computer and does not pay attention and even possibly distract other students from paying attention?

Wouldn’t it just be better for the student to not come to class rather than come to class and distract the learning process for other people?

By mandating that students make it to pretty much each and every class or risk loss of points, professors are operating on punishment system, which will typically lead to resentment and not instill a lifelong attendance habit.

Some professors have a reward system where they reward students who attend every single class or just reward them by testing over lecture material on the test, so only students who show up to class get that part of the material. In this way, professors operate on a reinforcement system.

Keep the current attendance policies set forth by the individual schools and colleges. They’re great. They allow student to know exactly how many classes they can miss and leaves some room for if things come up and students don’t come to class.

Please do away with the policy that allows faculty members to set their own attendance policies. Professors start doing things like deducting points for every absence, and this just isn’t fair.