When I enter into a classroom, I expect my instructor to provide a safe and open learning environment. Every student deserves to have this expectation. When this expectation is not met, however, mandatory attendance policies are enacted by the instructor.
Students take on a lot when they go to college. Some work while going to school, others have extracurricular activities that require a lot of time, and some students like me have families that need attending. These are all adult responsibilities, and in college, we are expected to act like adults. So, when I have an instructor who hands me a syllabus that outlines a numerical limit to how many classes you are allowed to miss, I feel like the instructor has put me in an infantile position.
I have heard arguments from instructors that attendance policies are a good thing, citing that it provides a better learning environment and holds students to higher standards.
I do not see the evidence in this at all.
Making someone come to class who does not want to be there is just going to make the learning environment a distraction zone. In every class there are dozens of students on their phone or on their computer not paying any attention to the class. Yet they are there because they are told to be, and then the other students are being penalized because, while everyone is there, kids are getting away with distracting behaviors that the instructor just chooses to ignore. If the teachers are arguing for accountability, they need to have the same standards for themselves.
Another conflict is for the people who have circumstances that come up that they cannot avoid. The recent flood is a perfect example. I had several students in my classes who were affected by the flood and had to miss class for one reason or another. I overheard one teacher give their support and was flexible with the student while another instructor told a student, “Well, use your 4 absences wisely.”
An attendance policy that dismisses catastrophic events in students’ lives is not providing a positive learning environment; it is only providing a more manageable environment for the instructors.
If the instructor’s interest is keeping it fair for everyone in the classroom, they are not taking into account the way the world operates. Life is not fair, and there are going to be plenty of times in life where you do not get what you deserve or what you worked for. Setting us up for an artificial expectation is going to let instructors down harder in the long run. If they want us to act like adults, then they should recognize that most of us have the sense to come to class.
Making kids come who do not want or cannot be in class does not affect the learning all that much. It is the professor’s instruction that does.
Holly Mayer is a junior English major and ethnic studies minor. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org