Students weigh in on mandatory attendance policies

Contributing Writer

As the clock’s hand ticked past 8:05 a.m., the classroom remained empty — except for the teacher at the podium shuffling through his class notes. No one showed up for class that day.

Some fear this hypothetical scenario might become a reality if there were no attendance policies in college classrooms. Students, professors and sociologists perennially debate what constitutes fair attendance policies in college. If you want me to act like a responsible adult, then treat me like one, say some students. Others view mandatory class attendance as a reasonable requirement, since students presumably pursue higher education for the very sake of classroom learning.

While some colleges possess universal attendance policies, policies at Franciscan University of Steubenville vary by teacher.

“Attend your classes,” reads a Web page for Franciscan’s Advising Office. “You are paying good money for a good education. If you do not attend classes, you are throwing that money away.”

But is attending class always the best use of a student’s time?

“I realize that our vocation right now is to be students, and I get that,” said Franciscan student Christian Kleb, who recently returned from a semester in Austria. “I look at my time as what’s quality. So if I find that a class is not necessary, but hanging out with friends is more quality time, than I’d rather do that and spend my time more wisely than go to class.”

Senior Spanish and psychology major Carmen Hambric said, “In general, I don’t agree with mandatory class attendance polices. The students are paying for the classes; they shouldn’t be babied. If they skip, they’re the ones missing out.”

Other students expressed concern at the idea of abolishing mandatory attendance policies.

“I think some people wouldn’t go to class if they weren’t mandatory,” said Dorothy McAfee, who added that “there’s a certain level where it’s too much.”

“I think when it’s ‘you can’t be absent unless you have a sick note,’ that’s too much,” said McAfee. “Usually you have three absences where you can just be absent and not explain it, but beyond that you need a note. That makes sense.”

Sophomore Mary Neugebauer said she had no problem with mandatory class attendance policies. “I go to class every day because I’m here to learn,” Neugebauer said.

Countless studies have examined the effects of class attendance policies, with varying results. A study conducted by Winona State University professors Edward A. Duplaga and Marzie Astani examined students’ perceptions of fairness in classroom policies. It found that students overwhelmingly favored non-mandatory attendance as more fair than mandatory attendance.

“Although most students did not perceive a mandatory attendance policy as the fairest treatment, it appears that students prefer that attendance be taken and good attendance rewarded in some fashion,” concluded Duplaga and Astani’s study.

Perhaps Aristotle was right that virtue – and the ideal class attendance policy – lies in the mean between extremes. But as long as there are college students and 8 a.m. classes, the debate over attendance polices will continue.

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