What Are We Paying For…Attendance?

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Professor Witte's empty Feature Writing class, Friday 9:00 a.m., photo courtesy of Matt Hartman

Everybody knows the feeling… It’s Friday morning around 9:00 a.m. and you just had a long week, doing school work, or maybe studying for a test.  You really don’t want to go to class, a gen-ed that you are taking just to fulfill a requirement, but you have to, otherwise you will get points taken off because attendance.  So you decide not to go, why should you?  Throughout the semester you end up missing that class five or six times, but got A’s and B’s on all of the quizzes and tests.  It turns out that your final grade is lower than you earned and expected, but why?  Attendance?  You pay for the class, the teacher’s time, isn’t it your right to decide if you want to go or not?

Professor Witte's empty Feature Writing class, Friday 9:00 a.m., photo courtesy of Matt Hartman
Professor Witte's empty Feature Writing class, Friday 9:00 a.m., photo courtesy of Matt Hartman

The obvious response to this question is why are you in college if you aren’t going to put in full effort?  If you are really here to continue your education, why would you short yourself by skipping class?  Attending class is obviously important and can be a huge help, not only to your grade, but to what you actually take out of the class- the real learning that takes place.  But let’s face it; some of the classes we take are only because the curriculum forces us to take them.  I have zero interest in science and math, but I had to take 12 credits, almost an entire semester’s worth of classes.

Bus stop, corner of Glenn Ave. and North Iron Street, photo courtesy of Matt Hartman
Bus stop, corner of Glenn Ave. and North Iron Street, photo courtesy of Matt Hartman

I decided to try to find out how some other students felt, so I put together a small little survey.  The survey included a couple simple questions about attendance and I received about 25 student responses.  Not surprisingly, the results ended up being a lot like my thoughts.  Only 1 out of 25 students thought that attending class in college should be mandatory.  Most of the 25 students said that they attend class often, but not every class.  I feel like that is typical, sometimes there are circumstances when a student cannot (or chooses not) to attend: sickness, work, studying for another class, or other circumstances.

“I knew the information and did well on the assignments, but sometimes attendance brought my grades down,” said Nick Searles, a recent BU graduate.

Another question that I asked in the survey was whether or not students thought that attending classes in upper level classes in their major was more important than attending a 100 level gen-ed intro course, and 20 out of the 25 people said yes.

I cannot speak for others, but I think that students want to be at the upper level courses, because one day, they will hopefully be a professional, working and using the information they learned in these upper level courses.

Even though I do not think attendance should be mandatory, I think that students that do not come to class should not be able to make up missed work or hand in assignments late.  If you decide not to come to class, you should not get the benefits that students that attend get, but you should not get penalized for missing.

One student waits for bus before 11:00 a.m. Friday morning, photo courtesy of Matt Hartman
One student waits for bus before 11:00 a.m. Friday morning, photo courtesy of Matt Hartman

According to Bloomsburg University’s policy on class attendance, “Regular classroom attendance is expected of all students.”

Bloomsburg’s policy on attendance does excuse a student if he or she misses class as a result of extenuating circumstances beyond a student’s control, including personal illness, death or critical illness in the immediate family, participation in a university-sponsored activity, or participation in a short term, obligatory military or military reserve activity.  In these cases, a student that misses an assignment should be allowed to make-up the work within a reasonable amount of time.

“I believe that it is the teacher’s responsibility to make class more valuable for the student than whatever else they could be doing,” said Professor Oliver Witte, an instructor in the Mass Communications department.

I understand why the university and professors would want us to attend class; if students attend class more often, participation will be higher and classroom discussions can be held creating a better learning environment.  But, as long as the students are doing the homework and passing quizzes and tests, should they really receive a lower grade for not being in class?  I don’t think so, at least not until the professors or university start paying the students’ tuition bill.

What do you think?

Here are a couple links of other people’s opinions

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/05/01/absent/

www.csmonitor.com/2002/0129/p15s01-lehl.html

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