In August at the start of the semester, Goucher rolled out the new and improved attendance policy for the 2023-2024 school year. The first week after being back on campus there were murmurings between both students and professors about the success and necessity of the policy to begin with. The new policy details that faculty is now recording attendance in all classes, per class, unlike last year where it was sporadic and varied by a professor’s personal affect towards the matter. The policy also states the possible excused absence protocols like various serious health problems, a death in the family (though unclear if this also extends to non-familial deaths), ACE and Title IX accommodations, etc. All require some form of proof submitted to an administrative office in a fairly timely manner.
Showing up to class is an obvious necessity for a college campus, it’s the thing we pay thousands of dollars worth of tuition to do, but the policies in place are both vague and frigid. Some Goucher professors still grade attendance over participation as well. This begs the question of in our current atmosphere, are attendance policies at institutions like Goucher are needed and relevant. Is it different between the institution and the individual professor?
Among the few complaints made by students at the start of the semester, there was one overwhelming response – why should we be punished for attendance when we pay to be here?
This argument is undoubtedly the strongest against the policy. If students and their families are shelling out the money to be here anyway, what does it matter if a student misses class? Parent readers might disagree with the idea but those parents who went to college know the struggle of sleeping through a class after an all-nighter or getting a mysterious campus sickness as we delve into the winter months.
Attendance policies might also be outdated because we live in the world of COVID-19. As a community, we are all ready for the virus to be gone from our lives forever but it’s simply not the case – COVID is here to stay and will affect immunocompromised students every semester in the near future. Policies around the sickness exist but what about the other effects of the virus, like becoming a caregiver, long covid, and priority shifts when the family gets sick back home?
The policies are also outdated because we live in an era of mass communication. If you miss a lecture, someone will have notes, if you miss a lab, someone will have data. You can meet face-to-face with your professors, but even more conveniently you can do it from your bed via Zoom or Teams. There are thousands of hours of YouTube videos on any given collegiate subject taught by professors and Ph.D. candidates. There is no lack of communication and resources for students to catch up more easily. Of course, this isn’t the same as the in-class experience, but it can come close.
Attendance policies also inscribe a strange limbo for independence versus obedience for students. Although not as extreme as some professor’s policies about not allowing bathroom breaks or food in class, telling students when and where to be somewhere is a bit parental coming from the institution.
For perspective, many students are taxpayers, most can serve in the military, some have off-campus jobs, and some of our older students even have children, the policy is a strange way to treat adults. It’s not as if this is preparing students for career attendance. In fact, workplace attendance policies are quite different and can vary, and most importantly, you are being compensated to show up to your job – not the other way around. In terms of individual professors who grade attendance over participation, the “real world punishments’ for lack of attendance materialize naturally, via a bad quiz grade or the need to make up work, not for the absence itself.
It’s unclear what the projected effect of the Goucher attendance policy and individual professor syllabi will shape out to be. This is not a gross mass advocating for students to miss class on a whim from some highly politicized independent newspaper, but we can ponder the importance and significance of these policies for institutions like ours and if they are relevant in the modern college climate. It is worth it for us to weigh the importance that students take a mental health day with their friends or fully recover from an illness, then be concerned about the consequences of a few missed lectures.
* Disclaimer: This piece was published as a student’s op-ed submission. The Quindecim is a space for all students within the Goucher community to express their views and beliefs. These pieces are released in the name of journalistic integrity and not in an attempt to antagonize or reflect the institution of Goucher as a whole.