Art by Madeline Duvall
It seems like a simple choice: Go to class or don’t. But often students face more of a dilemma.
Seaver College does not have its own attendance policy. Instead that responsibility is left to each individual professor, allowing them to choose between a lax policy or a strict one. Rigid attendance policies that don’t allow space for individual circumstances can put students at mental and physical risk, instead of making them feel academically supported.
When a disproportionate weight of a student’s academic success relies on them being physically present in the classroom rather than actively engaged in understanding material in any convenient setting, students may become resentful of school and disconnected from the true goal of education.
Seaver College should emphasize the importance of attendance, but trust students to make their own decisions without inflating the cost of missing class beyond the value of information lost.
Strict attendance policies also may lead students to believe that their grades are more important than their mental and physical state. Consequently, students can reason pushing themselves into unhealthy habits to keep up with requirements.
Students who attend classes while ill do so at the risk of their professors, peers and themselves. Even when professors offer excused absences in certain cases, the process can be burdensome, costly and even discriminatory toward students without access to cars or specific off-campus medical professionals.
A 2011 study published in Quality of Life Research found that almost 60% of their college student sample group experienced mental or physical health conditions but continued to attend class for various reasons.
Not being able to personally prioritize can also lead to student sleep deprivation. A 2010 study published in the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy found that poor sleep quality was associated with lower academic performance. A 1997 study published in the Journal of American College Health found that “sleep-deprived participants performed significantly worse than the non deprived participants on the cognitive task. However, the sleep-deprived participants rated their concentration and effort higher than the non-deprived participants did.”
While studies have found a tentative link between attendance and performance, there has only ever been a minor relationship. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management found the relationship between attendance and academic performance to be “neither linear nor automatic.”
Physical presence does not always mean mental presence, despite the effort put in by the student to be in class. A “good student” who continues to show up although they’re unwell only perpetuates the toxic burnout culture of college.
Rigid attendance policies may continue to affect the attitude and mindset of students even beyond the academic sphere. Students should learn how to independently balance their time in college, including juggling academic responsibilities. Stricter policies do not allow students space develop these crucial lifelong skills.
Stricter policies create a higher incentive for students to falsify excuses, resulting in more wary professors. Without space for honest conversations, students will not learn how to communicate true issues to figures of authority. When a student fears a professor’s response, their class may become a source of anxiety that instills resentment instead of fostering a love of learning.
After reviewing the negative impact of un-mediated attendance policies on Pepperdine students, the administration should consider adopting a school-wide approach that emphasizes the importance of attendance, but trusts students to make their own decisions without inflating the costs of missing class beyond information lost. This ideal would retain faculty autonomy but encourage students to source academic materials according to their needs.
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