Establishing the rules of classroom attendance

By Ian Hagerty

(Kevin Dooley/Flickr) A large college lecture hall.
(Kevin Dooley/Flickr) A large college lecture hall.

Have you ever had a teacher that appears to dodge around their responsibilities as an instructor? In my experience, these types of people are the doctoral students too busy with their own work, the ancient lecture hall professors that were tenured long ago and those that just seem bored, lazy or unmotivated.

In many of our classes, teachers take attendance and will often make quite a fuss if you miss class, even if the information could be easily found elsewhere. Often teachers can use this as an excuse to give you a terrible class participation grade. All in all though, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a professor getting in trouble for missing class.

As students, we are the ones paying our professors’ salaries. Our tuition and presence at school is the only reason they work here. When a teacher decides to be late for class or not show up at all, don’t you feel a bit ripped off?

As a liberal arts major, it is already nearly impossible to imagine where all of my tuition money is spent. The new Integrated Learning Center is great, and I’m sure that cost a pretty penny, but that doesn’t quite redeem the years spent in Bartlett Hall, day-dreaming and wondering why I was paying thousands of dollars for facilities worse than those used for public K-12 grade classes.

Whatever the case, I barely see any bang for my buck and teachers are also seemingly aloud to skip. So, not only is college already abusively expensive, now I’m missing out on one of the actual areas I can see my money being spent – the salaries of my professors. I’m getting ripped off on top of getting ripped off and so are many of you.

Not only is it ridiculous that teachers don’t get penalized for missing classes because of their own personal priorities, but students aren’t allowed to use the same out-of-school responsibilities as an excuse of their own. On the University of Massachusetts website in the area concerning class attendance, the acceptable excuses to miss class include health problems, religious observance, sporting events, field trips and extreme extenuating circumstances such as a car crash.

So, even though we are the ones paying for our education, we can be penalized if we miss class for any other reasons. I’ve had multiple teachers miss classes this semester because they had a pressing concern at a second job or some sort of demand from their personal life. As a student though, working my way through college, I’m not excused from missing class if I need to cover a shift at work or if I just need to work some extra hours to pay rent. The logic of this just doesn’t add up at all.

Professors are essentially settled into their career or at least on a promising road to one. Students have to be in school and not get paid, while often working their asses off just to get by.

While researching this article, it was hard not to linger on the fact that student-athletes are allowed to miss class for sporting events. Now, I don’t really have anything against this policy. The problem I have is that student-athletes are allowed while others are not. This should just be an all or nothing type of situation.

Athletes work very hard to maintain their schoolwork while constantly training. Many athletes I have met retain busier schedules than most students. Many student athletes even get academic scholarships. Essentially, these sports equate to work for many of these students. They’re just paying their way through school less directly.

However, students whose parents don’t pay for their education, with work outside of school, often have schedules just as busy, if not busier, than student-athletes. Plus, as hard as student-athletes work, being an athlete is a privilege. Not every student has the physical ability or an upbringing with a family well-off enough to allow time to play sports. Under-privileged youths often have to work from a very young age, and high school sports can often take up too much time for the working student. We should support our student-athletes to the fullest extent, but they shouldn’t get special treatment above others who also have hectic lives.

As college students, we’ve all woken up exhausted and lazy and thus decided to impulsively skip school, persuaded by an illogical fog that clouds the tired mind. There isn’t really any great excuse for this, but there are many times that students with extenuating circumstances have important reasons to miss school.

Unfortunately for us, many professors hold their own personal lives in a higher esteem than their students, and allow themselves to miss class when they need to. We pay these professors. It isn’t the other way around. We should have the power to do as we please, within reason. We should all be on the same level as our student athletes. If we have a legitimate excuse to miss school, we should never be penalized. This just isn’t right.

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]