Mandatory college attendance: helpful or harmful?

By Nikki Gregory, Contributing Writer

Being a college student comes with many responsibilities, including completing homework assignments, studying for exams, writing papers, and even working to be able to afford your education.

It only seems right that, in taking on all of these responsibilities, one would experience an unusually high stress level. So why is it that college professors are penalizing students for taking the actions necessary to keep their stress levels down?    College students across the country are faced with one dilemma every day: prioritizing having a social life, getting good grades or getting enough sleep.

Most students can only stand to achieve two, which can affect their lives in a number of ways. College students should not have to choose between maintaining their GPAs and maintaining their mental health simply because professors unjustly make class attendance mandatory.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an “adult” as “fully developed and mature.” The same source defines “mature” as “based on slow, careful consideration.” We are told daily that, as college students, we are mature adults.

If we are mature adults, then how come we are not given the opportunity to make the “careful” decision on what is a justified reason to miss class? Courtny Franco, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, also plays the role of Research Methods’ Statistics Lab instructor. Courtny believes that students need more say over the attendance policies that directly affect them. “As a student, I am all for eradicating strict attendance policies,” Franco says. “I love the idea of having the freedom to dictate when and when not to attend class.”

Syllabus week makes students very much aware of the risks of not attending class, and the first couple weeks of school allow students to dictate what they are or are not capable of in terms of assignment completion.    

Additionally, a mandatory attendance policy does not even ensure attendance. Inside Higher Ed featured an article by Michael Bugeja which introduced his take on an attendance policy.

Bugeja accepted any reason for not attending class, assuming the student was not missing an exam or presentation, because he wanted students to be able to “assess their priorities” at will. He simply required an email honestly identifying the student’s reason for absence.

Bugeja explains that attendance may correlate with achievement, but that that was each student’s duty to decide for themselves.

It is, ultimately, the responsibility of the student to prioritize their academics, their career, and their physical and mental health, in the way most advantageous to them.

It is clear to see why some would argue that class attendance should be mandatory. “What is the point,” you may ask, “of paying to attend school, if you’re not going to attend the classes and work for your degree?” Some would say it’s an investment in your future; some students would skip class daily, allowing their educational institution to fail them.

However, these reasons still do not trump the fact that students should be able to decide for themselves. Paying for admission to a university should allow students to decide what classes they do or do not attend, something that should not be mandated by a professor.

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