Attendance policy reflects lack of desire to attend classes

Shaefer Bagwell argues that professors at Biola should restructure classes to truly be academically rigorous.


Photo illustration of exhausted sophomore Emily Conrow choosing to sleep instead of go to class. | Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

As I near the end of the semester, I frantically check Blackboard. Am I looking for my grades? No. Am I trying to turn in an essay? Nope.

When I rush to Blackboard the week before finals, chances are I am checking my attendance. In most of my general education classes, the teachers have instituted an attendance policy. Many of my professors attempt to hide them under the guise of “participation points” which students receive solely for showing up to class.

On my first day of class freshman year, I was appalled to find that I needed to show up a prescribed amount of times. I missed a lot of class in high school, and my mom told me something that gave me hope. When she was in college, the professors let them miss as much class as they wanted. The theory was this: College is hard. There is valuable content in class. It should be incredibly difficult to pass a course without attending. You’re spending your — or your parents’ — hard earned money on school. If you choose to waste that money by failing a class you’re too stupid to attend, that’s on you.

When I learned about the regularity of attendance policies, I was confused. Why on earth would they be necessary? This is a nationally ranked university. Class here should be hard. The same policy that applied for my mother should apply for me.

To be sure, my mom went to one of the best schools in the country. What’s more, she went to a school that is seven times the size of Biola. Taking attendance in a class of 350 is, logistically, a lot harder than it is in a class of 15, especially in 1978. But I’m not sure how discouraging that should be. My mother’s professors knew that their students cared enough to want to do well in their classes. Thus, they designed their course content to make it nearly impossible to pass without attending.

What does it say about Biola that this is not the case here? If our courses are passable without showing up to class, shouldn’t they be reformulated? I came to Biola to soak up the wisdom that our professors have to offer. But I am a college student. If I can get away with sleeping an extra hour instead of getting up to go to class, while still getting an “A,” I — and most every other student here — would take that option.

What are the implications of that reality? What does that say about our work ethic? What’s more, what does it say about the rigor of our classes? If my main incentive for showing up to class is the fact that attendance is mandatory, something is seriously wrong. I want my incentive to be the fact that I will miss out on valuable learning. I want to have to go to class because without it, I won’t learn as much. It’s stupid that students need this sort of threat to want to go to class. We go to a world-class university, with excellent and wise professors. We pay more money in a year than a lot of people will make in their lives to go here. It’s a waste of those professors’ expertise and the small fortune we are paying to wantonly skip class. It’s saddening that professors are not structuring their classes in ways that make me want to go to class for the intrinsic value of their teaching. If this university is going to advertise itself as academically rigorous, it needs to demand dedication and excellence from its students. Professors need to refuse to accept anything less from their students. Rigor should make attendance mandatory, not policy. I don’t want to be threatened, I want to want it.

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