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Wenzdae Wendling

Optional attendance is the way to go

September 22, 2021

People often think that to fully understand a subject, you need to experience it firsthand.

College, however, tends to be less real life-experience and more coursework, lectures and quizzes.

We all have days where getting to class seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. 

Maybe the weather is awful, maybe I woke up feeling sick, maybe I’m just overwhelmed and getting out of bed seems like a huge task. 

Well, I present my conundrum: mandatory attendance.

The requirement of students’ physical presence in the classroom and the subsequent damage to their grade if they don’t show up, is one of the least efficient and nonsensical requirements in college.

“The instructor has the final authority to excuse absences… [and] has the right to require documentation in support of the student’s request for an absence from class and to determine the appropriate response,” UVM’s Student Rights and Responsibilities webpage stated. 

With optional attendance, many could continue to go about their regular class schedule. Students having a bad or sick day could simply take the class time to get their work done or relax and move on with their day instead of going to class. 

Additionally, if a student is having a busy or difficult day, be it due to weather, mental or physical health, there is flexibility as opposed to a bad grade.

This system would help college students exercise the essential skills of logical decision-making and self-discipline by determining when attending class would be beneficial for them.

Of course, I’m not proposing total chaos here. 

Attendance for the purpose of putting a face to the name or just keeping record of who is in your class, without affecting a student’s grade, can still occur. 

This way, if a student decides not to attend classes and fails the course, the blame cannot be pinned on the professor, but instead on the student who did not utilize the tools available to them for success.

The University of Arizona’s College of Public Health tested out having a mandatory attendance policy versus having an optional attendance policy. 

This test allowed students to select whether they’d like to have mandatory attendance, where they were penalized for missing class, or optional attendance, where students who did show up were awarded extra credit according to a Jan. 13, 2019, The Chronicle of Higher Education article.

This policy was found to motivate students to attend by giving them direct responsibility for their attendance without creating unnecessary stress around missing classes. 

If we as students are allowed to utilize our good judgment about when we need to be in class, our efficiency levels would rise and our stress levels would fall. Our forced, often wasted, time commitment would become less essential than the quality of our work. 

Maybe one day, UVM and universities across the world will realize the positive impacts removing mandatory attendance would have.

In the meantime, however, grades are still tied to our attendance, so I’ll see you in class.

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