Hot Button Issues: Missing class shouldn’t hurt your grade

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Madison Peterson

Am I the only one who thinks that missing class shouldn’t result in a grade penalty?

Yes, I miss a few classes each semester. The classes I miss I have a good reason to, whether I’m studying for an exam on the same day or I’m physically ill. Either way, the choice to miss class was mine and quite frankly, the reason why isn’t relevant.

Students who miss class for any reason should make sure to reach out to other students for the classwork they missed and study the material that was missed, to prevent falling behind.

However, a students’ grades should not be impacted for one absence. They shouldn’t have to receive concerned emails from their professors wondering where they were. As long as they can keep up with the material and do well on exams, the choice to miss class should be theirs.

I hate to break it to those out there, but sometimes students have entirely appropriate reasons for skipping class and sometimes they don’t. Either way, a class is missed and it was the student’s personal decision that they don’t owe to anyone else.

Maybe that student needs to learn time management or maybe they don’t. It shouldn’t be up to the individual professor or university to hold a student’s hand to teach them. Students’ time management skills are reflected in assignment and exam grades. Attending class should not be a factor in determining good time management skills.

Missing a couple classes isn’t representative of a student’s respect for their professors either, but rather, a matter of personal choice.

In the job world, if an employee misses work, their pay is docked or they are put on a warning system and told that missing more time could cause serious infractions.

Students shouldn’t be subjected to equivalent penalties for missing class on the basis that they are paying for their education, and won’t be paid for their education until they enter the job market.

In the professional world, or the “real world”, the employee typically isn’t paying the employer for their right to work. Rather, the employee is getting paid a set amount for performing a specific task or set of tasks. So, it makes sense that when they miss work, there are consequences.

Students are paying to attend the university, whether it’s their own money or their parent’s money. So, students in college shouldn’t be guided the way they are in high school and receive grade deductions as a consequence for missing class.

For many students, doing well in a class does mean going to class. In my major particularly, this is true. But for some people reading the textbook and studying a few days before the exam is all that is required to do well.

As students, we should be in an environment where we are allowed to shoulder some responsibility for missing class, such as studying on our own or reaching out, but students should not take a grade deduction for classes missed.

So, while I do think that attending classes is extremely important, I don’t think that missing them should result in lower grades or other penalties.

Madison Peterson-Porta, ’19, is an associate lifestyle editor and columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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3 Comments

  1. Asa's Brother on

    Hi Madison! I will start with your thoughts and make a modest proposal.

    Since your thinking is that the direction of the money suggests students should affect grading policy – let’s continue with that direction.

    Many students have financial aid so that they pay little or no tuition but some students have no financial aid and make 100% tuition payments. Maybe students who pay full tuition should get a higher grade and those who pay let get lower grades – or at least those who pay the most tuition have the most say over the weighting of grades. Shouldn’t the grading policy favor not only the student ,because the student pays tuition, but shouldn’t it favor the student incrementally according to how much the student pays.

    I believe this policy is known as “pay your fees get you B’s.”

  2. University of Phoenix: The Harvard of Online Colleges on

    Madison,

    Using your logic – Why not stretch this policy to private high schools? Students/parents are fronting the bill, therefore students shouldn’t be penalized for missing classes.

    There are students at Lehigh on full academic scholarships. Should their attendance be weighted differently?

    Lastly, I disagree with your statement about a nonexistent link between attendance and respect. First, a lot learning stems from student-student and student-professor discussion or debate. Not only is missing class (seminar-style) disrespectful to your fellow students, but University professors dedicate their lives to research, academia and sharing their knowledge with students. This takes time, planning and effort, and is all done to benefit students. Not showing up after a professor has spent decades in school, years doing research, and days planning his/her lesson for you to get smarter, is not what I think of when I think of demonstrating respect.

    If the grueling task of walking 10 minutes to class ever becomes too much to bear, you may appreciate an online degree. You wouldn’t even need to get out of bed.

  3. Amy Charles '89 on

    Professor here.

    No, don’t be silly, UofP (or so thin-skinned). I don’t regard a student’s not showing up as a mark of disrespect: students are their own people, and they don’t exist to tell me how desperately important my work is. Nor do I regard their falling asleep as a mark of disrespect, even if it’s a little unnerving to be lecturing at sleeping people. (I fell asleep in every single class I had at Lehigh except for Oleg Smolansky’s, because he was terrifying, even at 7:30 in the morning. I didn’t mean to, but the combination of warm room and droning guy will knock me out almost every time. Still happens. I’m sure the retirees dozing away at the symphony aren’t there to flip off the bassoonist, either. And no, it didn’t hurt my relationships with professors.) I have students who take full courseloads while working 30 hours a week because they have people to support and need to get their degrees before they’re middle-aged. My job is to help them, not stand there nursing a grudge. I’ve also learned not to view their falling asleep as a “you’re boring” criticism. Sometimes it is, and then it’s my job to be less boring. But often they’re interested, just wiped out. I find that out when I get their papers or they come to office hours.

    If the class itself isn’t valuable to you in some way, don’t come. Don’t waste your time. Maybe you need the course as a prereq, but you can get through fine without showing — if that’s the case, actually, talk to the chair and see if you can get the prereq waived, rather than wasting your money, too. And don’t sit there in my classroom please looking like you’re there under duress; if you have something to say, say it. What I do tell students is that I’m not there to let them waste my time, either. If a course weights participation strongly, and I have something set up so that students with real emergencies can skip and make it up in office hours, that’s fine, but I’m not re-teaching classes for people who skip because they have a sorority function or their parents are in town. My posting volume here notwithstanding, I have things to do too.

    I do not grade attendance because university students are not small children and it’s your responsibility at this point to start figuring out what you need for yourselves. Participation is another matter for some classes and some groups of students. Frankly, though, I’m not wild about the idea of participation points (really, I’m going to drag you into talking?); I use them mainly to make something easy to get so that there’s a grade buffer, meaning that students can take big risks in their actual coursework, try new and difficult things, without fearing a terrible grade at the end. My own inclination is to shrug at the grades but they mean too much money and opportunity now for that to be fair to students.

    In other words, Madison, I’m inclined to agree with you. Of course, if it turns out you really did need to show in order to understand what was going on, you really can’t complain about the grade at the end. And you may find that out only at the midterm (or four o’clocks, if Lehigh still has those). Happened to me.

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