McGrath: Class attendance requirements infringe on student freedoms

Bailey Mcgrath

After pulling an all-nighter for your philosophy test, you can feel the heaviness of your eyes winning the battle to stay awake. Eagerly, you check the clock, hoping there’s enough time for a nap before your first class. To your dismay, you only have an hour before statistics. Even though you know you would perform better on your test this afternoon if you got some sleep, you’re only allowed two absences in statistics and your teacher must approve them. So, you attend, struggling to keep your eyes open and remembering hardly anything taught in class.

Taking attendance for grades has been an ongoing discussion throughout the history of higher education. Many professors believe that there is a direct correlation between class attendance and a student’s performance in the course. While some of these professors believe mandatory class attendance will enhance a students learning, others believe it will hinder it.

Research results on the topic throughout the years have varied as well. Many studies have shown that increased attendance results in higher grades. However, some studies show that attendance does not affect students’ performance. Other studies even say that mandatory attendance will have a negative effect on students’ grades and performance.

A majority of college students know that by attending class they have a better chance of learning the material and performing well on tests, assignments and projects. However, by making attendance mandatory and a part of a student’s grade, professors are not contributing to his or her success in the course. Making attendance a percentage of a student’s final grade certainly does not reflect that student’s competency in the course.

College is the first time many students truly have the freedom to make their own decisions. We can finally independently decide how we want to spend our time. While some of us are busy partying and socializing, others take advantage of all the extracurricular activities. On top of these, many of us have to hold a part-time job to cover rent and other expenses.

With this freedom comes the responsibility of prioritizing and holding ourselves accountable for all of our activities and class work while still finding time to sleep and keep ourselves healthy. Sometimes this means getting a few extra hours of sleep, taking an extra shift at work or finishing up a final project instead of attending a class. As young adults, we should have the freedom to make these kinds of decisions. We would then have the responsibility and ability to go over what was discussed in class the day we missed in our textbook or grab notes from a friend.

Even if a professor allows two or three absences during the course of a semester, these absences commonly have to be approved and excused by the professor. This includes missing class for illnesses or family emergencies. But, even if you are sick, this means going through the hassle of going to the doctor’s office and receiving a doctor’s note. Anything else is left to the professor’s discretion. Not only does this create a hassle for students, but the professor as well. While professors have the right to be concerned if a student is missing class for weeks at a time, a student missing a few classes throughout the semester should not be their concern.

Even though some students need the extra push to attend class, many of us want to be successful. Mary Beth O’Halloran, a professor of philosophy at Century College in Minnesota, believes that students perform best when they are self-directed and enthusiastic about their course work. When professors punish students for not coming to class, they will likely diminish students’ enthusiasm and self-direction for learning.

If students are forced to attend classes, they could very well be spacing off, thinking about other problems in their life, working on another assignment or just browsing the Internet during the entirety of a class anyway, getting nothing out of the lecture. An alternative to this would be to reward students for coming to class. For example, students will likely not want to miss class if they know there might be an in-class assignment or quiz.

Some classes, like labs, do require attendance for a student’s success, and students should not be allowed to miss tests or group project work. In many cases, however classes are simply resources that aid in a students success in a course. Students can choose how much they want to take advantage of this resource.

Universities and their professors should stop punishing students for missing classes and instead encourage them to take advantage of this resource by making it beneficial and engaging.