Attendance is a Student’s Responsibility

There are professors that enforce a strict attendance policy in their classrooms. The three pass limit is something that should change at California Lutheran University. From the very first day of class, teachers typically reiterate their syllabus and explain to students how many days they are allowed to miss without the consequence of having points deducted from their grade. What is up for debate is whether an attendance policy is an effective approach to encourage students to come to class and actively stay engaged with the course material throughout the year.

According to a recent study conducted by the Institute of Education Sciences, a moderate positive relationship between student achievement and student success was found. However, this study narrowed its focus on students in grade school and high school levels. There is no mention of college students in the study.

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of English, Brian  Rasmussen’s attendance policy aligns with this studies belief for student success, participation and accountability. Students are allowed up to two unexcused absences, no questions asked. After the second absence, the final letter grade is docked by one-third of the student’s grade. Rasmussen has been teaching at Cal Lutheran for almost 10 years and believes attendance is an essential course tool in the classroom.

“The reasoning behind my attendance policy is for accountability structure and measuring student’s learning. Coming to class is the minimum possible requirement to take ownership over one’s education. My policy is designed to give students an accountability structure that helps them meet the requirements of the class,” Rasmussen said.

Although it is important for professors to have structure and organization in their classroom, it is ultimately the college student’s responsibility and decision to come to class. We are  intelligent and responsible adults who have learned to balance our time and activities accordingly in the daily hustle of life. If we are devoting our personal time, money and effort in the hopes of working towards a successful future, it would be irrational to not come to class.

However, with that said, life happens. Perhaps the flu season took you out for a week or you broke your foot and were unable to drive to campus for a month. These unforeseeable events are sometimes outside a student’s control. The last concern you should have to worry about during a family emergency or illness is maximizing your number of absence passes and having your grade deducted as a consequence.

Cynthia De Martino is the full-time director at the Center for Teaching and Learning and a professor in the communication department at Cal Lutheran. Her no mandatory attendance policy is based upon the belief that we are all adults and if we want to come to class and find that valuable, we should. If students choose to not attend class, there are already penalties with missed class activities and discussions. De Martino sees no need to “double” punish students.

“My policy is to keep track of the students who are not coming ,but I do not mark them off for that. It is my job as an educator to make sure that class is valuable to students. However, if a student is missing an excessive number of classes, I will certainly reach out to them and ask why,” De Martino said.

While no two professors may ever come to a mutual agreement on classroom-wide attendance, in the end, it is ultimately always up to the student to determine their own educational success. Attendance correlates with student participation, engagement and responsibility. In an effort to become successful and prosperous working adults post-college graduation, these qualities of structured accountability and scheduling will easily translate over to the workplace and our daily life if we regularly attend class.

Kendra Salo