Opinion: Colleges should get rid of restrictive attendance policies

Version 2

The Lyceum. Photo by Lucile Healy.

Lucile Healy
Oxford Stories

There is a grave issue on this campus. It’s costing students their sleep, social lives, some even their entire college career. Attendance policies are detrimental to students with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and they need to be changed, if not eliminated entirely.

Professors give students the opportunity to receive points for participation if they simply show up. Granted, this is a great incentive to teach students responsibility, but we’re not paying tuition for that. Professors aren’t supposed to coddle us. If a student never comes to class and never turns anything in, let them fail. If someone rarely comes to class, but gets all of their work done, they should pass the class.

My parents have wasted $14,000 for me to learn the lesson of how ridiculous these policies can be. All my life, I’ve had health issues – problems with my stomach, sinuses, depression, anxiety. You name it, I’ve dealt with it. In high school, I was excused with a doctor’s note. In college, my stricter professors, seemingly out of spite, used this against me by failing me eight times. I repeat, I have failed eight classes.

The reason? Authoritative attendance policies.

The department with the worst attendance policy on this campus, which will not be named, doesn’t give a [expletive redacted] if you were sick, even if you have a doctor’s note.

When I went to the head of the department the fall of my freshman year, begging the head to let me pass, when I had done all of the work, gotten perfect grades on my assignments because I did work hard, but had missed more than the maximum number of classes due to general and mental health issues, they point blank told me I had to fail.

“I had to fail a kid who was getting chemotherapy. Why should I let you pass?”

I failed that class, and I did learn that lesson. I failed six other classes in my first year of college because of authoritative attendance policies.

Some professors at this university understand and excuse health related issues, but only with a doctor’s note, and some even need a note from the specific day that class was missed.

What about the student who has class from 8-5, and is not able to make it to the doctor the day of the missed class? Or the student that is not able to leave their room, for whatever reason?

What about the student that is manic depressive and has been awake for three days, trying to finish their work? What happens if they finally fall asleep, and miss their alarm? Are they supposed to fail and effectively waste thousands of dollars because of their mental health?

A doctor’s note from the V.B. Harrison Health Center at the University of Mississippi.

Even if students do not have mental health issues, there is a vicious cycle in the culture of college that needs to be altered. Students are expected to show up to class, on time, and complete their work, regardless of how many hours it will potentially take them or quantity of assignments on their plate.

The triangle of life.

A few years ago, I saw this photo of a triangle with the options of good grades, enough sleep, and a social life. Then in the center, it asks the viewer to only pick two.

Life is difficult, and always a balancing act. This doesn’t mean it has to drive a student to failure.

What constitutes ‘fair’? In my entire three years of college, I have only taken two classes with no attendance policy. What gives?

The reason these classes should be the standard, is because it’s up to the student if they want to pass or fail. The same professor taught both and said he would rather teach students who wanted to be in the class that day. However, he did incentivize it by structuring the midterm and final, open-book with notes from class, but in order to do well, students basically had to show up and take the notes.

Sure, it is a student’s responsibility to show up and do the work, but in reality, professors really want to inspire and just get to the lecture.

Teaching a class can be awfully distracting when students, who chose to make it to class that day, are on their computer, texting, playing games, watching television, watching porn, video-chatting, sleeping. I’ve even seen students literally just sitting in front of the professor, staring blankly and never opening their backpack to take notes.

I pose the question to professors, do you really want these kids in class when you could be teaching a room of bright-eyed, bushy tailed students who actually WANT to be there and participate – students who engage with the lecture, take notes, and listen to you?

Change the system. Enough is enough. Make it easier on yourself.

Fix these attendance policies.

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