“…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.
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.