Teachers, students debate attendance

If John Penn arrived more than five minutes late to his studio art class, he would fail for the semester. His professor’s attendance policy allows for only so many absences before a student fails and, under the policy, two tardies count as one absence.

Penn, a graphic design major at NKU, argues that when students pay money to go to class it should be their responsibility to show up. And he doesn’t think attendance clauses are fair.

“By the time you get to college, everybody’s adults,” Penn said. “It’s their responsibility to get to class, but I don’t think they should be penalized for not showing up. It’s their grade that’s going to suffer, it’s their money they’re wasting by not going to class, so extra punishment is just excessive.”

In a study by Margaret H. Launius, a professor at Mansfield University, Pa., students who attended class were found to perform significantly better on both exam scores and outside-class work.

In her classes Launius used an attendance system that awarded points for coming to class. She surveyed her students afterward and found that 70 percent of the 374 students favored the attendance policy, and 84 percent said receiving points for coming to class affected whether they came.

An additional study found that in classes with mandatory attendance the average attendance rate was 82 percent. However, when attendance was not required average attendance dropped to 76 percent.

“I can understand attendance policies in high school because everybody’s required by law to go, but college is someone’s decision to go,” Penn said. “It should be your decision to go to class.”

Penn said that sometimes he really needs to miss class to complete extra work in other classes. Penn said many studio art classes require four times as much work outside of class, making it hard for him to keep perfect attendance.

“I always have two art projects due,” he said, “so I actually sometimes need to miss one class to finish one (project) for the other class.”

Penn said many art classes also have stricter attendance policies, such as automatic failing after three absences.

“For some freshmen I think having to come to class could definitely help,” Penn said “But maybe a loose policy to kind of ease them in, because I know some people who, their freshman year, just don’t go because they have too much freedom.”

Penn also thinks that taking a break really helps. “Just taking a day off every once in a while,” Penn said. “People need that, especially when they have so much going on during college, and if you have to go to class every day then you just get stressed out over the class.”

Professors, however, have a different take on the necessity of attendance clauses.

Rodney Daniels teaches African studies at NKU, but he is also a student working on his doctorate, so he can see the conflict from both perspectives.

“I actually had a student recently tell me he felt that since he was paying for his education so he shouldn’t have to come to class,” Daniels said. “That made me realize we’re really in a sad state, because everything is associated with money.”

“There are just some things you can’t put a price on,” he added.