More student-friendly attendance policies needed

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    The classwork is greater than what most students expect coming out of high school. Many are not adequately prepared to read as much as they have to in order to keep up with classes.Add onto this the need many of us have to work a steady job for one reason or another, as well as participation in extracurricular activities, which allow students to experience college life to the fullest. Before too long, students start running out of hours in the day and the week to eat and sleep.

    So what happens? Sometimes we miss a class here or there.

    It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to keep in good health, physically and mentally.

    Of course, you’d think the worst part of missing classes would be that doing so causes us to miss what our professors teach that day, or even miss out on a pop quiz that we can’t make up. You’d think that would be bad enough.

    But many – a majority, even – of the faculty members here at TCU have rules stating that if a student has more than a certain number of absences (the average is about three), that student’s grade will be negatively affected somehow. Some professors and instructors even begun lowering a student’s final grade by a full letter grade for every absence past the first.

    Of course, these rules aren’t exactly uniformly enforced. Some teachers forgive more absences than do others. But there are those that will give no quarter to students who miss a class for any reason – other than a university-excused absence, of course.

    Students who have to miss classes because of their participation in various university activities receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” card of sorts from Campus Life. Professors typically have to honor these university-excused absences – and I’ve never seen or heard of a single faculty member who did not.

    But any reason for missing class other than involvement in a university-sponsored activity could result in dire consequences for a student’s grade. Campus Life’s absence policy states, “(F)rom time to time, illness, family obligations, or other personal circumstances may prevent you from attending class. These are unexcused absences.”

    Basically, this means that Campus Life will not assist a student who has missed a class for any reason, even if the absence was out of the student’s control.

    Because of this, an overworked student could accidentally sleep through a class, or be forced to stay home one day because of sickness or flat-out fatigue, and not be excused in any manner.

    Then, as the semester progresses, this overworked student gets double punishment for missing that class: He or she misses out on the lesson that he or she would have learned in the class and therefore fails a test, and then gets slapped with an automatic lower grade. Is that really fair, to overwork students and then give them double punishment when they fall just short of perfection, or succumb to illness (as all people do from time to time)? Is that right?

    Of course, there are many arguments in favor of attendance policies.

    In the real world, people can’t miss too many days of work without suffering some consequences. College is supposed to prepare us for the real world, so an attendance policy similar to one that students might encounter in the workplace should help train for that, right? Not necessarily. Most employees call in sick once in a while. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, in most cases employers will not fire a worker or give him or her permanent consequences – sure, maybe a reduced paycheck if those earnings are determined by the number of hours worked – because he or she got sick.

    Another point supporting attendance policies is the idea that students who are dedicated enough to make to every single class should be rewarded for their efforts, and those who don’t come every day shouldn’t receive the same considerations. But this can be accomplished in many ways. One of the fairest ways would be to give students with perfect attendance a little extra credit, or perhaps some leeway when problems arise or even when determining the final grade.

    Finally, the simple fact is that professors devote pretty much their entire lives to teaching these classes, and the least we students could do is show up. Some would say it’s just plain rude to the professor if students simply don’t show up to half their classes. And it is. So if students do get the benefit of a lax attendance policy, they shouldn’t abuse it.

    All things told, it’s a good idea to require students to come to class in one way or another. But some professors simply have unreasonable attendance policies. After all, it’s not uncommon for a student to have to miss more than one meeting of a class in a given semester for one reason or another. So is it really right to lower that student’s grade for just two absences?

    More than three is a fair line to draw. But another method of attendance policy might seem more attractive.

    Some professors make attendance and/or class participation a small portion of a student’s grade, say 5 percent or 10 percent. The professor would then give a student a point for just showing up, and another point for saying something each class. Of course, the actual point values vary from course to course, from professor to professor.

    This way, students who go every day are rewarded. Students who don’t go often enough are punished. And those who have to miss a few times because of sickness or other personal reasons aren’t just doomed to an automatically lower grade. And there can still be a maximum number of absences, perhaps a considerably higher number, simply to keep students from abusing the policy.

    Ultimately, when faculty members make their attendance policies a little more lax and students don’t abuse those policies, everyone wins out in the end.

    Associate Editor Jarod Daily is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Keller.