Student grades must rely on performance, not attendance

Sarah Alarcon

Only three more days of class until we can study for finals, take them and finally sob tears of gratitude that we survived the fall semester. I would feel less stressed leading up to finals if I didn’t have to show up to a class where a professor sits glued to a swivel chair and lectures in a monotone almost-whisper about the assigned handouts. I must attend because after one absence out of 30, five points will be deducted from my final grade. It’s astonishing that as a post-baccalaureate student, I am forced to listen to a 50 minute lecture instead of reading the material in 10 minutes. If a student demonstrates a mastery of course content, their grade should not be penalized for absences.

As a future teacher, I understand the importance of attendance. I prefer to attend class because I like learning from my peers, and I appreciate an auditory aid to learning new information. However, if an instructor does not encourage discussion or add something unique to the PowerPoint and reading, then students should be able to decide for themselves whether or not being present in class is worth it. 

For students who juggle the many activities required for job resumes, self-care is often forgotten. If a student needs to take a day off to take care of themselves, they shouldn’t have to worry about negative consequences for putting their mental health first. English major Julio Diaz believes that students should be given more leeway with absences to prioritize their health. “If I’m trying to keep my mental health in check, it means missing a class, which hurts my academics,”
Diaz said. 

Some attendance policies are simply too strict. In many classes, after three absences, students’ grades are dropped by a letter grade. The department of rhetoric and writing’s attendance policy promises to fail students upon the seventh absence in a MWF class and upon the fifth absence of a TTH section. 

It’s easy for a student to miss enough class days during a 15-week semester to negatively affect their grades. We get sick, we travel and we have work obligations. If a student is going to at least 75 percent of their classes, participates and performs well on tests, it doesn’t make sense to punish them for learning the material on their own. 

Another reason a student may feel inclined to miss class is if they feel the class isn’t useful. As a research university, UT hires many researchers and higher education students to teach instead of trained professors. While some of these instructors do an excellent job creating lessons, others do not make learning student-centered and fail to make the most out of class time. If an instructor isn’t willing to get students involved in the class, the least they can do is not require us to attend every class. 

For the majority of classes at UT, especially non-freshman classes, attendance should be optional or graded as extra credit. Ultimately, we are the ones paying over $5,000 per semester to be here, and we are old enough to decide how to make the most of our education.

Alarcon is a UTeach Liberal Arts student from Austin.