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Role Call: Thoughts on the Attendance Policy


Role Call: Thoughts on the Attendance Policy


By: Lanie Tunnell

Parents, past teachers, and friends from other universities say things like, “Make sure you go to class- I had to learn the hard way,” but Southwestern students may not have the choice to “learn the hard way”.

On page 107 of the 2016 Student Handbook, you will find the start of the “Class Attendance & Absence Policies,” which states: Class attendance is required at Southwestern. Your faculty expect you to attend the classes for which you have registered. Most faculty believe that more than three absences in one semester in one class is excessive… Read your syllabi carefully to be sure that you understand attendance expectations. Recognize that if class participation, in-class quizzes or assignments, or graded homework constitutes a part of your grade, unexcused absences may lower your final grade considerably… The University Catalog states that students are expected to attend all regularly scheduled classes for which credit is granted. Individual faculty members establish specific attendance policies, which appear in the syllabus for each course.

At first glance, it makes sense. You signed up for the class and you’re paying for the it; therefore, you should go to class!

People, especially parents and professors, love to tell college students all about how they are “adults” now. It’s almost their way of taking some of the pressure off of them because if their kid messes up, it’s not their fault anymore! They are an adult and can make their own choices! I think it also makes them feel like better adults when they see their fellow adult (Aka, a twenty year old Junior) hobbling around with only one sock on and drooling because they got one hour of sleep.

Next, everyone over the age of 30 starts throwing around the “R word”; responsible. You’re responsible for making sure to get enough sleep, wash your clothes, eat properly, and most importantly, you are responsible for going to class.

So if I’m responsible for going to class, why do I get penalized if I don’t?

Professors at Southwestern are very understanding and willing to work with students. They want their students to succeed and care about student’s well being. However, missing class doesn’t always fit into a neat package that will count as an excused absence. For example, you may have noticed 75 percent of the student body getting sick for the past couple of weeks, and I happened to be one of them. In the past I would have said “suck it up, buttercup” and made myself go to class anyway, but this time I decided to try something new. I took some decongestant, laid in bed, and slept for hours. The next day I went back to class, already feeling better.

I was very satisfied with my choice to take a day off to get some rest because I started feeling better much quicker than if I had forced myself to go to class like usual. But that absence was not excused. If that were to happen again, and then I accidentally overslept one day, according to some professors that means I would drop an entire letter grade. Like I mentioned, professors at Southwestern are extraordinarily helpful and merciful, but I know sometimes things don’t always work the way you want them to.

It is important to go to class. It is almost impossible to pass if you miss more than three classes. The lessons taught in person by the professor are used on quizzes, exams, and papers that all take place after the one day you missed.

There is already a built in consequence to missing class that corresponds to being “the responsible adult that gets themselves to class,” but that responsibility is lessened when the choice to go to class, or not, is taken away from a student because of a penalty enforced by a university policy. It comes down to the question of if the reason a student is in class is important. If the student is in class, does it matter if it’s because they chose to be there, or if it’s because they didn’t feel like they had a choice to not be there?