Baylor should re-think its attendance policy

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

As we approach the mid-point of the semester, exams and assignments are piling up, along with other commitments. It’s the point in the semester where we must ask ourselves, “What can be done today, and what can wait to be done tomorrow?”

By this point in the semester, students are often tempted to skip class to work on other assignments or catch up on sleep. Students often will count how many times they can miss class without being penalized for it. With the amount of money that college students pay in tuition, they should have the freedom to decide whether they should go to class.

Baylor University does not have an all-university attendance policy. The policy changes from school to school. Ultimately, teachers have the jurisdiction as to whether to enforce it. For example, in the Hankamer School of Business, students must attend 75 percent of all class sessions or receive an automatic ‘F’ in the course. However, students at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing must attend 80 percent of all class sessions or receive an automatic ‘F’ in the course.

Because the attendance policies change depending on the school the class is held in, students must be mindful of this when deciding whether to go to class that day. However, it should be the students responsibility to get to class, regardless of an attendance policy. The student should understand how important it is for them to be there and the ramifications of them being absent. When you miss class, you miss instruction in content that you are responsible for knowing, you miss interaction with your professor and ultimately, you miss another opportunity to listen to the material being presented to you. Having an attendance policy takes responsibility away from the student to make sure that they attend class. Without an attendance policy, the student is forced to take ownership of their learning and get to class.

In high school, students are told that in college, professors will treat you like an adult and expect you to behave like one. Every student pays the price of tuition and should have the choice to attend or miss class. Students are responsible enough to make the decision to go to college, so they should be considered responsible enough to make the decision as to whether or not they go to class.

In an article by USA Today, some college professors have said that they do not institute an attendance policy because they do not want students in the classroom who are there to simply be counted present and be a distraction for the rest of class time. Other teachers have measured participation instead of attendance. For example, a teacher will count how much a student speaks up in class as their attendance for the day.

In classes of 300 students at Baylor, professors will pass around a sign-in sheet to mark attendance for the day. In classes of this size, there are times where the sheet will not make it around the auditorium for everyone to sign it. At this point, is it about taking attendance or is it just complying with a university rule?

Though teachers must comply with attendance policies, the university should consider whether an attendance policy is paramount to student success. Students should have the decision to attend or not attend all their classes. There are some students with extreme situations who must take care of their personal lives and still must make it to class because they are afraid of being counted absent too many times.

Students should go to class because they want to, not because the university is forcing them to do so.