Jan. 23, 2003, Gazette
"Oh my god, guess what? Like the greatest
thing happened! I went to my first class today and the prof was like Whether
you go to class or not is your own choice, although I do encourage you
to attend class. Material will be covered in class that is not in the
text book and this material will show up on the final exam. Can
you believe it? I dont have to go to class!
Okay, okay, that was a little too typical and perhaps a line out of the
movie Clueless but this is in fact the logic inflicted upon many a university
students mind. They hear that whether you go to class or not
is your own choice, while neglecting to acknowledge the fact that
lecture material will be tested on. People should go to class and there
are many other reasons to do so, some connected to education and others
to your pocketbook.
The average class, excluding laboratory or discussion times, is two-and-a-half
hours per week, the semester has 13 weeks of instructional time and we
pay $267 per course (there are exceptions). When considering these numbers
simple mathematics will concur that the each class we miss costs us $7.63.
At first this seems to be nothing, but imagine yourself throwing this
amount of money is a waste paper basket every class you miss. Essentially
in a cliché way this is what you are doing.
How do we break down the myth then? Telling others that going to class
is the key to success, while very true, automatically marks you as a keener
and in all honesty will probably add up to nothing more than people talking.
In fact even the University Calendar doesnt set all classes as mandatory.
In the calendar it states:
5.1 Attendance regulations must be approved by the Senate and will be
allowed only in cases where the academic unit has demonstrated that attendance
is necessary for safety reasons, for teaching practical skills, or for
attaining other clearly specified objectives. This may include an attendance
regulation that may, by itself, cause a student who contravenes the regulation
to fail or be dropped from a course.
5.2 The course where an attendance regulation is to be enforced must have
the statement attendance required included in the calendar
So basically a course cannot have mandatory attendance without good reason.
While the calendar states this many professors set a class participation
mark around 10 or 15 per cent which allows them to factor attendance into
your eventual grade.
After thinking on the topic for awhile I conclude there are two main reasons
that attendance isnt made mandatory for university. Firstly sheer
logistics; in a class of 250 people a role call would be a nightmare.
Secondly, if you think of university students as adults then it doesnt
seem necessary to keep such tabs on them. After all there is no attendance
sheet in an office building.
This is by no means an attack on students; after all I am one myself.
In fact I firmly believe that students are not as incompetent as some
people may think. While trekking around campus I found two such students
who held differing opinions on this subject yet both viewpoints were fairly
Chris Mercer, a first-year Computer Science student, said Yes, I
think classes should be mandatory considering that you are paying for
the education and it is your responsibility to attend classes, but I think
is should be left to the individual student to decide whether or not it
is pertinent to attend the class at that particular time or if there is
something in life that is more important. I dont think it should
be left to the sole discretion of a professor, who at many times as we
have experienced can be unreasonable.
While Chris believed that the students should take the responsibility
Matthew Cook, a second-year pure math and computer science major, said
that a combination of advising and student dedication is necessary to
cut down on unexcused absences. There are professors that actually
make [going to class] a quasi-mandatory thing, it is not so that you will
be punished, it is more that you will have the benefit. This term, a professor
told me that he checks to see if you show up to call your classes. If
you have a 48 hell bump it up to a 50, if you have a 78 hell
bump it up to an 80, but if he checks and sees that youve missed
all these classes it stays where it is. Certain professors take
(keeping attendance) into their own hands. Taking it into your own hands
from a professors point of view is not an easy thing to do as there are
many different reasons for not showing up to class at any given time.
If we had a better system of coming up with academic advisors, they could
help keep tabs on a students attendance. After so many classes missed
the advisor could meet with the student and speak to them about the matter.
Beyond that mandatory attendance, i.e. you miss class so you lose 10 or
15 per cent, is a really harsh thing to do, perhaps a little too harsh.
While Matthews comments on an academic advisor seems like a good
way to at least keep a handle on attendance and why people are missing
so many classes, it does seem to take away somewhat from the independence
factor of university. We are here to learn and to shape our minds, which
will hopefully turn us into intellectual, well adjusted adults. Although
perhaps that is too hefty a bill to expect all round, but in general people
should learn to lead their own lives.
As to Chriss comment on prioritization, it is true that every now
and again people may come across a vital appointment that cannot be missed.
Yet when it all comes down to it we expect our professors to show up every
class so it isnt that unfair for them to expect us to do the same.
This however, depends primarily on your views of authority in the classroom.
If you see it as a negative dictatorship then perhaps missing class is
something you can justify, whereas seeing a classroom as a way for one
person, a professor, to pass on information to others, the students, it
becomes more authoritative and therefore absences are looked less favorably
If I were a social psychologist it would be interesting to see if there
is a positive correlation between those who attend classes and those who
make the Deans List. Although this is simply conventional wisdom
kicking in I believe that there would be a fairly strong correlation,
that is if I was the betting type.
The bottom line is that in my experience most professors have little problem
with excused absences, the problem is with the ones that are unexcused.
If you have a good excuse, (and please try to be tactful here a
big sale at the mall isnt a good excuse) then it will most
likely be accepted as legitimate.