Attendance policy tops course syllabi

At Northern Kentucky University, class attendance policies vary widely.

Professor Ben Kaufman’s syllabus for Ethics and Mass Media states, “I do not count attendance or absence in grading.”

On the other hand, a syllabus could be similar to Dr. Russell Proctor’s for his Interviewing class, “Absenteeism and tardiness are traits of an unprofessional communicator.”

“There is no university wide, Board of Regents policy that has anything to do with absences that I’m aware of,” said Kent Kelso, dean of students.

According to the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, “Classroom participation is essential to the education process in many disciplines. Therefore, when the instructor indicates in the course syllabus that class participation is essential to the educational goals of the course, the instructor may lower a student’s final grade because of excessive absences.”

The Code also states “in order for attendance to be a factor in grading purposes, the individual instructor must require attendance as essential in the course and must state this in the course syllabus.”

“In our department, individuals can make up their own,” said Dr. Brad Scharlott, journalism professor.

This semester, the College of Informatics is trying a “Non-Attendance Reporting Pilot” that strongly encourages faculty to take attendance in their classes for the first three weeks of the semester and then report any absent students to the Office of the Registrar.

“In 2005, the Registrar’s Office initiated the ‘drop for non-attendance’ reporting procedures in order to comply with federal financial aid regulations,” said Michelle Heatherton, interim assistant dean in the College of Informatics, in an e-mail to all Informatics faculty members. “In order to legitimately receive financial aid, students need to be physically present in their classes or, in the case of online courses, be engaged in some form of educational activity.”

“Despite the importance of the non-attendance reporting,” Heatherton explained, “the participation rate among faculty members across the University has been relatively low.”

This new pilot required some significant syllabus changes for professors who do not require attendance. The e-mail requested each faculty member “take attendance at least for the first three weeks of the spring semester to be in compliance with financial aid policies.”

There is still no requirement to punish students in any particular way for missing classes, Kelso said. The only time a student can be manually dropped from a class is if they have not been physically present in the classroom after the first three weeks of a course or actively participated in an online class after three weeks.

The Code also states “the key to attendance at NKU is to be aware of each instructor’s policy. They reserve the right to lower your grade if you don’t show. With the financial aid regulations, they also have the right to drop you from a course if you aren’t showing up.”

“The teacher sets the policy,” Kelso said. “If there is a policy regarding absences, the teacher may lower the student’s final grade because of absences.”