Welcome to college, an incredibly hectic time in your life, which you will likely cherish forever. Many students are balancing heavy class loads, multiple jobs and possibly even an internship. Some of us might be parents trying to finish our education, bring home a paycheck and care for our kids. It is overwhelming how much is expected of college students and how much we need to cram into a week.
If life isn’t stressful enough, many professors have decided that they are going to require classroom attendance from their students — and that’s part of your grade. Required attendance means that students are receiving a grade for being physically present in a classroom, but physical presence does not equate a good student, so why is it emphasized so often here at Eastern?
I’ll be honest; I enjoy lectures and I learn better from them. I am therefore in no way advocating for students to constantly skip classes. Or if you want to, why waste your money? My point is simply: Why should attendance in itself have such a drastic impact on your final grade? Nothing seems wrong with a simple attendance policy. After all, it’s getting students in the classroom and participating — and this is a good thing — but it depends on how far the instructor takes the policy.
Imagine a class where if you were to miss two days out of the entire semester the best you could achieve in that class is a C. That sounds absolutely terrifying and so is a great motivator not to just skip class and slack off. Awesome, professors and instructors have solved the problem of students never showing up. But how does it affect students who truly cannot make it to class? Something somewhere is unfair when a student has an emergency and cannot make it to class and receives the same grade reductions as a student who just skips. That doesn’t seem to be right, and it is something I have encountered far too many times during my now almost three years at EMU.
I feel that, although attendance is important, there needs to be a safety net within syllabi which protects students from being punished for what ought to be excused absences. Imagine having a medical emergency, a death in the family, trying to take advantage of an academic opportunity such as a conference, etc. and all of those times absent count against you — you’re now facing a horrible grade, your GPA is falling, you’re at risk of losing scholarships, and for what? For not being physically present inside a brick walled classroom.
Imagine that most students figure a medical reason will protect them from receiving points being deducted. But that doesn’t always happen here at EMU. Some instructors may even accept your doctor’s note and still not allow you to make up the work or have an excused absence. It still doesn’t seem right but if it is stated in the syllabus that missing X amount of class periods result in a grade reduction that is the final answer. How many of us can truthfully say that we have made it to every single class in a semester or even only missed two classes at the most? Even then you’d better hope nothing else happens under these strict syllabi policies, and the truth is life happens.
We pull all-nighters, sometimes even putting blood, sweat and tears into our assignment and all for naught with these attendance policies. Instead we end up going to class and sacrificing our health, perhaps risking a job or neglecting being there for our loved ones. And our absences do not affect the instructor’s pay. If I am in my seat or recovering from being sick at home there is no difference to them.
Missing classes is going to happen, both students and instructors know that, so let’s get rid of the grade reductions. Instructors could schedule in a make-up day, recognizing we are all human and trying our best. Create multiple extra credit opportunities putting the burden on the student to really earn their grade. Provide alternative assignments when a student is attending a conference and encourage them in their academic endeavors.
There are ways to avoid these stressful battles between students and the university, and I sincerely hope that things begin to change. Attendance is important but in no way should it be affecting our grades, we are all adults with a variety of responsibilities and it’s time we are treated as adults. Our ultimate grades need to reflect our work in the class and our dedication to our education, not our physical presence in a room.