Attendance: 0% of Final Grade

Michael Tartre

“…providing grades without commensurate and appropriate student achievement, constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”
Regents Policy 2301: Policy on Course Content

The universally accepted purpose of grades — as a measure of competence — obviously indicates that points should be awarded only to, as the UC Regents codified it, “commensurate and appropriate student achievement”. By this standard, attendance cannot rightfully be counted as part of one’s grade.

It hardly needs to be stated that awarding points for attendance dilutes the grades as a metric of real achievement. Though it may seem that attendance points are “easy points” in a course, in the long run, attendance points can only be only harmful. If a course is excessively difficult without having points awarded for attendance, then using attendance points to rectify the grading distribution merely masks the deeper problem of poor instruction or tests which do not accurately portray relative ability in the subject matter. The existing systems of feedback from students, in form of the CAPE evaluations, and faculty supervision are aimed at correcting those deeper issues, thus improving the course’s educational value. Attendance points only obscure the feedback and hinder these constructive methods.

There are certainly professors who would end up talking to an empty room if students were not awarded attendance points, but this would be an improvement over forced attendance. The choice to not attend class signifies that the student believes the material can be more effectively learned without use of the professor’s lectures. If that is indeed the case, then the professor has no one to blame but himself for the embarrassing turnout, and forcing students to attend would ultimately harm their ability to learn effectively. Though it is possible that some students may skip, not learn the material, and fail the course, the UC system should not be used as a baby-sitter for adults who cannot make proper decisions for themselves; if those students do not learn while in college that self-motivation is essential to success, the UC system will be doing them a disservice.

Example of a Policy Violation

Another Example of a Policy Violation

If, the UC system decides it would prefer to award attendance points, it should change its policies to reflect this view. This attitude of lawlessness for convenience’s sake is endemic not only to the UC system but to all modern American governmental bureaucracies. The allowance of dissonance between stated and enforced policies distorts the democratic process by removing actuality from the duly established regulations. Because the effective policy does not exist in the regulations—or, as in this case, is directly contradicted by regulations—there is no sensible reform to the regulation which can correct the policy in error. This duplicitous manner of governance impedes potential for reform and misleads perceptions of the institution.

The UC system should formally acknowledge that its grades are influenced by factors external to academic performance, or it should enforce the policy it claims to uphold.

Michael is a senior in Marshall College majoring in electrical engineering.

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3 comments

  1. Chris C. · ·

    Interesting post.

    I think you’re missing out on the main “convenience” explanation though: students not attending class tend to result in a huge number of headaches for the instructor. First, the students won’t know the material as well, so they’ll ask for extra help outside of class (and usually outside of office hours). Second, they’ll miss when the assignments are due and then complain they weren’t informed in time. Third, they’ll complain they didn’t understand the assignment and need a more detailed personal explanation. All of these are clearly the students’ fault, so in an ideal world the instructor should have no mercy, ignore their requests for help, and grade the students on the parameters of the assignment. In the real world though, that doesn’t happen and if it did, the students would blame the instructor.

    There’s also the issue of participation- should that be used as an academic guideline? One must be in class (i.e. attending) in order to participate and participation in activities, presentations, and discussions are all “achievements” in a sense that they require some kind of demonstration of knowledge.

  2. Dmitri Sedykin · ·

    Reply to Chris C. : A professor’s job is to teach, not only within the classroom, but in personal meetings. If a one on one meeting is to be considered a “headache” for a professor then that professor clearly demonstrates no interest in teaching or serving others. It is the student’s fault for failing to achieve the best he can do, but it is the professor’s job to help a student learn when he wants to learn.

  3. Gwen Bauer · ·

    It’s physically impossible for one professor to meet personally with, literally, hundreds to thousands of students he/she teaches in one semester, in order to tutor them in subjects they missed by not attending lectures/labs/study sessions/etc. A student agrees to attend class when enrolling for a course given in a group format – it isn’t independent study – it isn’t an agreement for private tutoring. “Participation” in a course includes class discussions, asking questions, and showing the professor that the participant is actively engaged in learning the material. That most certainly can count as a portion of a student’s grade, especially if that’s clearly stated in the syllabus.

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