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Mandatory attendance a hindrance to students

Final grades should be based on knowledge and work, not presence

By Alex Farmer
On February 16, 2014

Whether you are a freshman or a senior, we all know the dreaded attendance policies that are put into place here at ETSU.
An interesting fact: The university itself doesn't have an actual set policy. The requirements for attendance are set by each department.
Typically, it is set at somewhere near 75 percent for each class.
Unfortunately, this means that attending class isn't just encouraged, but required in order to pass.
We have to attend a certain amount of sessions just to be eligible to pass, and most of the time points are deducted for each absence.
So the matter of attendance is generally a huge ordeal for students.
First, why do departments require attendance? Most of us have heard that studies show attendance and grades go hand-in-hand.
That seems to be the go-to line from professors when asked about attendance. In all fairness, however, studies have actually shown this to be true.
That is great, but shouldn't students at our age have motivation and drive to attend class and do what we need to do to perform?
Could students be missing out on a key lesson in life about responsibility?
I believe that part of growing up is learning responsibility, and requiring attendance may be shooting that lesson in the foot.
When a student wakes up at 7:30 a.m. and has an 8:15 class, the decision of going to class shouldn't come down to an attendance policy.
That decision should be made because the student understands that success doesn't come easy. You have to be motivated and go get what you want.
Is it really right to deduct points from a student if they only miss two classes but have met the requirements for attendance to pass the class?
I personally have had experiences in my collegiate career where my grade went from an A to a B just because of a couple absences.
Now in the nature of competitiveness, I understand that attendance is a way to measure an extra edge in the classroom.
However, why should students be punished for a "day off" if they know the material at an exceptional level?
An alternative to deducting points would be to look at the attendance of a student when deciding at the end of the semester if that 89.45 is actually a 90. This would be better than determining that a 94 was actually an 89 because of two missed classes.
I am not saying that attendance policies are completely outrageous, but they are being used improperly at times.
It is important to know that classroom experience can't be replicated anywhere else. You can't always look over the PowerPoint slides on your own and get the same level of experience as being in the classroom.
However, your final grade shouldn't be reflective of attendance, but rather of your knowledge of the material.
So, that brings me to the compromise that I am proposing.
I believe that for all level 1000 and 2000 classes, an attendance requirement should be set. For level 3000 and 4000 classes, focus the grade solely on the material and not attendance.
My theory in this is that the departments would still get to impose the attendance requirements to freshmen and sophomores, but juniors and seniors wouldn't have that to worry about.
Let's face it: When students move out on their own for the first time, they do need some guidance that the attendance policy is aiming to accomplish.
However, once you become an upperclassman, you realize when you do and don't need to go to class.
This would be a win-win situation for the departments and the students.
As always, follow me on Twitter @GatorZ25 and let me know what you think about the article. Stay safe and God bless!


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