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Tuesday, July 05, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

Needless Classroom Policy 101


Welcome back, everybody, to another fun-filled UB semester. By this time, you all should have received your final flurry of syllabi, outlining which hoops you have to jump through for the next four months to get your three credits and - depending on how well you complete the required tricks - a decent grade.

Outlined somewhere in your syllabus is also an attendance policy for the class. It's probably right after the paragraph about plagiarism and why it's bad.

At UB, there is no university-wide policy on attendance other than to leave it up to the individual professor. The most substantial statement in UB' s "Class Attendance Policy," which can be found at the Student Response Center's Web site, is, "The University at Buffalo recognizes that attendance at all class sessions and associated activities is highly valuable for all students. The University acknowledges, however, that occasional absences will occur and that some of these will be unpredictable."

University policy goes on to state that professors must allow students to make up missed work and activities "from which they are justifiably absent." Excusable absences may be the result of religious conflicts, illness, "conflicts with university-sanctioned activities," and other documented emergencies.

This non-policy seems reasonable enough, especially when it is compared with universities that mandate grade reductions after a certain amount of absences, but it leaves too much power in the hands of professors who equate missing their class to a mortal sin.

On the first day of classes, I strolled into one of my 500-person lectures to find that my professor decided not to show up. Not to worry, though, the teaching assistant was there to tell us about class policy, the exam schedule and that if we were absent due to a death in the family, we needed to bring a death certificate as documentation to be excused.

He didn't offer a reason as to why the professor wasn't in class.

Now, there are many things wrong with this policy, the most basic of which is that it is none of any professor's business that someone in my family died, and it certainly is intrusive to demand a death certificate. Aside from a student possibly not wanting a professor to know the cause of death of a family member, what thoughtful and caring individual is going to approach a grieving widow/child/aunt and ask for paperwork?

It has been my experience that, at least at UB this semester, it is easier to be excused from class to play in a football game than to attend a funeral.

Aside from the meddling aspect, though, the policy of deducting points for attendance is a juvenile method of teaching that should be reserved for high school and elementary school students. College students should be able to decide for themselves whether they go to class. After all, they're paying for it, and if they decide to waste their tuition dollars, the coffers of UB do not suffer.

Understandably, professors sometimes feel they need to inspire conversation and interaction, especially in smaller classes. In a 500-person lecture, however, it doesn't matter if I'm sleeping in Knox 20 or in an Ellicott dorm room. As for the attentive students, they're not likely to benefit from the slackers being forced to be in class, anyway.

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Those who choose not to attend their classes will get their due when they take their exams. If they haven't learned the material, they will fail and suffer the consequences. If they read the text on their own and aced the test, so be it. In either case, they didn't have to be in class, and with an attendance policy in effect, students are being doubly punished.

If professors are so concerned about whether students come to class, they should administer pop-quizzes throughout the semester or offer bonus incentives for attendance. Reducing grades, however, is contradictory to the college ideals of independence and growth.





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