Last week, I was sick. When I say sick, I mean the type of illness where you can’t get out of bed and basically suffer through the week in a Nyquil-induced haze. Despite this, I was sitting in my bed in a panic over my classes’ attendance policies.
This semester is the first time I am taking classes strictly for my major, which has come with some adjustments to attendance policies. Several of my classes allow for two unexcused absences, and one of them only allows two absences overall. After missing these days, students are penalized with grade-point reductions.
I am a firm believer that students need to attend classes to succeed. However, I also believe students should not have to put their physical or mental health on the line to save their grade. Mandatory and extremely strict attendance policies not only harm students’ grades, but also their well-being.
Only allowing for two unexcused absences throughout an entire semester is not lenient. Many students have chronic health issues that cause them to miss days of class at a time, and others may not be able to afford health care to obtain a doctor’s excuse. Attendance policies often revolve around physical health, but many students need mental health absences too. It is understandable that professors require attendance but these policies are extremely harsh. College is already stressful; students do not need the added stress of grade reductions solely because they are ill.
Professors should adopt the policy that stated attendance policies are not final, then make sure students are aware of the potential for exceptions. Although they exist in many professors’ attendance policies already, there should be exceptions made for extreme cases of illness or tragedy. In an ideal classroom, professors and their students should have a relationship; this allows students to openly express their concerns about attendance or illness, without the fear of being penalized.
Professors also need to be more accessible to students. They do have lives outside of work, but students are essentially paying their salary via tuition dollars. Students should not have to email their professors three times in one day to receive an answer on a pressing issue such as attendance. If email is not a direct way to reach a professor, they need to notify students of an alternative, preferred method of communication. Professors’ jobs require educating and understanding, which means that they should be easily accessible to answer questions or concerns.
I felt the brunt of mandatory attendance last week, which made me realize how unfair these policies are. No one wants to get out of bed for an 8 a.m. lecture but there are times when attendance policies need serious re-evaluation. Many professors need to realize that students have emergencies or days when making it to class isn’t possible. There is absolutely no reason to penalize someone for their inability to come to class, as long as an explanation (or sufficient proof) is provided.
Sometimes attendance policies are mandated by departments, meaning absences are out of professors’ hands. Departments that uphold these strict policies need to make changes to accommodate their students as well. Both departments and professors understand the possibility of emergencies, so they need to be more considerate of students’ time and well-being.
Being a college student is demanding and involves balancing many different responsibilities. Students should not have to stress about their grades when they have emergencies, whether these are health-related or otherwise. Professors need to take a critical look at their attendance policies, and they need to make sure they are accessible to their students.