Opinion: Attendance Policies in College Settings Do More Harm Than Good

Picture this: you’re sitting in class, and your professor, a person whose chosen a career as someone who is willing to teach a subject they care about, is 20 minutes into class. They are saying something interesting about – wait – what was that? Oh, someone forgot to turn their volume off when they checked that snapchat story in the row behind you. Okay, back to it. Oh, an interesting visual representation has been shown on the board! Oh no it’s gone, and you were distracted by the student in front of you online shopping for cute mugs with cacti on them.

These are the problems that arise when students who do not care to be in class are forced to go to class. As important as attendance is to absorbing and retaining information, there is no way to force a student to pay attention.

At the University of Louisville, most classes have a four absence maximum policy. The consequences of surpassing the maximum are failing the class, or requiring proof of the need for an excused absence (which, even so, it may be hard to stay on track having missed that much material).

There is the intonation in these requirements, that without the express expectation to attend class, some students will attempt never to come to class at all. This is a risk, but not a big one for the college. Students’ tuitions are already paid, and it should be their own responsibility to make sure that money is being used for something.

College students are expected to feed themselves, make transportation choices, and, in most cases, they live away from home. It is not a University’s responsibility to assume the role of nagging parent, dragging their child out of bed and getting them ready for school. A college student makes their own bed and lies in it, literally and figuratively.

What the current attendance system results in, is students who genuinely want to learn being consistently distracted by those students who don’t. Mandatory attendance means classrooms attended by students who care enough about their grades to be present physically, but not enough to be present mentally. Professors who have devoted their life’s work to teaching and to topics that they consider important are disrespected daily by students who blatantly text in the very front rows of class, who chomp on food loudly, who fall asleep and make it obvious they’re not interested.

If the school allows those who want to be in class to be in class and those who don’t, to stay home, classrooms will be more focused, engaged, and active.

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