By Sarah Asinof | News Editor
If you go to Baylor, you are familiar with the infamous attendance policy. According to the Baylor College of Arts & Sciences website, a “student must attend at least 75 percent of all scheduled class meetings.” However, I think the attendance policy causes more harm than good, and Baylor should get rid of it entirely.
A year and a half ago, I was a first-semester freshman, navigating college life and getting adjusted to being on my own. From dorm room adventures to writing difficult essays, I was excited but slightly overwhelmed. Unfortunately, in October 2017, I started to develop pain in my left arm. Over the course of a couple days, I noticed my veins were sticking out on the left side of my body. My parents prompted me to immediately go to urgent care. Long story short, I ended up having multiple blood clots not only in my left arm, but also in my lungs. I was told that any aggressive movement could kill me. Just at the start, I was hospitalized and began the journey of dealing with blood clots. Over the course of three months, I saw a hematologist multiple times, I had countless ultrasounds and CAT scans and even went on two different kinds of blood thinners. The physical adjustments were enough to make it hard to come to class let alone the emotional toll it took on me. Needless to say, it was a really hard way to start my freshman year.
Now, I don’t want to say that all my professors were sticklers when it came to the attendance policy. In fact, the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC) professors walked directly beside me. Instead of prioritizing the 75 percent attendance policy, they cared more about my physical and mental health. They helped me complete my assignments and scheduled tests accordingly. Even more so, they prayed for me and constantly checked up on me. However, I had two professors outside of BIC who did express concern about the medical emergency and made sure to remind me that I had to be there or my grade was going to reflect my absence.
Specifically, when I returned to school, I climbed three flights of stairs to meet with a professor because I was going to miss an exam. By the time I got up the flight of stairs and into his office, I passed out. Embarrassingly, my professor called an ambulance. When I emailed him that night to take the exam, he proceeded to tell me that I needed to take the test the next day because I was only gone for one class period. There I was, sitting in the Baylor Scott & White emergency room, trying to study for an exam. Secondly, when I was in the hospital, I wasn’t able to turn in a paper but sent the doctor’s note and even my medical documents to excuse the delay. I ended up getting half credit because it was “late.” I emailed my professor and the department chair, only to be told that the professor’s judgement and decision trumps the attendance policy and written excuse. Again, I understand there is a policy to be upheld, but after having my own experience, I find the attendance problematic for three reasons.
First of all, the attendance policy does not allow for excused absences and counts the exact same if you have a written excuse or not — even from a medical professional. The idea behind the attendance policy is the university grants students a certain amount of absences. Therefore, if a student has a family emergency or they are sick, they have “room” to miss. However, this is problematic because it doesn’t give additional validity or understanding to the students who are actually missing for a real excuses, not sleeping or ditching class. It discourages students to communicate with their professors if something is actually going on because they know that excuse or not, it will look the same within the grade book. For me, sometimes it was frustrating when I was really struggling and someone would skip class, and their grade would reflect the same as mine. I don’t want to discredit anyone’s circumstances, but I was actually in the hospital, with tubes and cords covering my body. Shouldn’t that actually be an excused absence and not count toward the total amount of classes I miss over the term?
Secondly, the attendance policy often counts toward a student’s overall grade. If they miss over the 25 percent, it will reflect in their grade. Moreover, in many classes, the more times a student misses, the further their grade goes down even if it is below the 25 percent. On the Student Policies and Procedures website, Baylor explains, “Attendance at class meetings is essential to academic success.” While I agree that part of getting an education is dependent on being in class, if students are skipping all the time for no good reason, their overall grade is going to reflect on its own. It isn’t fair for students who have to go home because of a family emergency or who are incredibly ill to watch their grade drop because they couldn’t physically make it. Again, excused absences usually don’t reflect differently in Baylor’s grade book. An absence is an absence, end of story.
Thirdly, the attendance policy is merely the minimum, and professors are allowed to make stricter guidelines. According to the policy, “Faculty members may establish more stringent requirements regarding attendance, punctuality, and participation. Any attendance requirements and penalties for excessive absences will be set forth in the syllabus for each course.”
Trust me when I say, I have had Monday-Wednesday-Friday courses only allow three absences, when 75 percent would actually be 10 absences. Furthermore, I firmly believe that if professors are allowed to make it stricter, they should also be able to make it more lax. I have had a good amount of professors who also see the problems that arise with the current attendance policy and would love to be able to amend it.
At my high school, which was a private, college preparatory school, there was no school-wide attendance policy. Some people might find this problematic, but the students who were just missing because they didn’t want to come usually ended up failing the course on their own. However, the students who actually needed to miss because of an emergency were able to make up their schoolwork and succeed in the course. It doesn’t punish students who are actually dealing with something. As I have stated before, if students are missing and don’t have a real reason, I think that reflects in the grade book on its own because they are missing out on instruction from the professor.
Baylor students are all adults at this point. We are the ones paying to come here and should have the freedom to decide when to come to class. We should have the opportunity to experience the consequences that come naturally if we don’t show up to class because it is on us to ensure our success in college.