Syllabus week prompts discussion of attendance policies

Abigail Piskel January 21, 2015 0

It’s the beginning of a new semester, and we all know what that means: getting a new class syllabus. I would think it is pretty safe to say that there is a standard routine that all professors go through when they review their syllabus. First, they probably told you about their office hours and when the best time to reach them would be. Then, as you were looking ahead to see what your workload would be for the semester, your professor was probably going over something that can either make or break your grade for that course: their attendance policy.

By now, we all should have taken enough classes to know that each professor weighs attendance on different scales. Just like students have a student handbook, the professors and faculty members have a handbook as well. Dr. David Downing, Ralph W. Schlosser professor of English and English department chair, explained that the handbook says the class attendance is controlled differently by each faculty member. It is important that the professor explains their attendance policies in the beginning of each semester and includes them in the course syllabus so there is no later confusion if it comes to affect the student’s grade.

“The statement leaves it up to the judgment of faculty members what their attendance policy should be,” Downing said. So no matter what happens, some sort of an attendance policy should be enforced. The faculty handbook also mentions that depending on the student, there should be an incentive for good attendance. If the student is one of an above-average stance, the professor should give that student leeway when it comes to their attendance. However, if the student has reason to be concerned about their grades, then they should be encouraged to maintain regular attendance so that it can help improve their overall performance for that course.

That being said, students’ attendance is not solely the responsibility of the professor. It is also a big obligation of the students to make sure that they fully understand and are responsible for following these attendance policies. Not only can it affect their overall grade, but by skipping class frequently, they are hurting themselves and their classmates. Now, in the case of any sort of medical conditions and family emergencies, it is also the student’s responsibility to inform their professor if they will be missing class on that given day.

The faculty handbook states if the student is going to be missing an extended amount of days due to an emergency, either personal or medical, the Center for Student Success, by request of the student, will notify that student’s professors. However, for any missed classes, it is ultimately the student’s obligation to talk to the professor about any missed work. In addition, a professor or the College itself is allowed to dismiss a student from a course if they have an excessive amount of absences.

According to Downing, each department has their own Standard Performance Expectations (SPEs) for the faculty members. Some departments state that the faculty member must meet the approval of the department chair before they are able to cancel a class, while other departments leave that choice up to the professor of that class. “I have taught at several colleges and, as far as I can tell, Etown faculty generally have stricter attendance policies than most colleges and certainly stricter than most universities,” Downing said.

We all know that most professors take attendance, but did you ever stop and consider why?

By taking attendance, the faculty member is keeping up with the College’s Early Warning System. Whether you have received an early warning or not, this is the College’s way of letting you know that you have a low grade in that course, and the professor should inform you as to why you are receiving that low grade. Attendance can affect the early warnings, thus professors take attendance for this reason.

As students, we may not always feel that professors are being fair to us. Sometimes it may seem like they are picking on us with certain policies that they uphold, but really they are only trying to help us.

If a big part of our grade is just to show up to class, then why not do it? You’re paying the money to take the course, so you might as well put that money to good use. The professors are only asking you to show up, whether you pay attention or not is your own decision, but at least give the professors the respect they deserve.


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