Weak attendance policy creates inconsistencies

Attendance policies for Butler University classes are like the proverbial snowflake—no two are the same.

Some are aggravatingly strict, others are temptingly lax, but nearly all professors have one.

Many professors say attendance policies are put in place to encourage students to come to class and participate and also to penalize those who don’t, providing further incentive.

According to the Butler University Student Handbook for 2011-2012, “students are expected to attend every meeting of all classes in which they are enrolled. The definition of excessive absence, as well as the penalty for such absence, may vary with the nature of the course.”

In other words, professors may establish their attendance policies however they want, and it is up to their best judgment to determine whether a student deserves academic action based on absenteeism. With that in mind, professors at Butler said they tend to design their attendance policies not to eliminate any possibility of missing class, but to provide a reason to go.

Students said they might be intimidated by strict attendance policies, fearing a bad grade if they miss class or losing esteem with the professor.

Professor of English Bill Walsh understands the importance of attendance but acknowledges that things come up.

“I don’t pay much attention to attendance unless it’s spotty,” he said. “Class is about developing skills.”

Walsh said it is difficult to acquire those skills if a student doesn’t attend class regularly.

“We all believe in what we’re doing, but we also believe in the autonomy of the student,” Walsh said.

Walsh also acknowledged the differences between skills and content courses.

“A content course is different,” he said. “Sometimes students can get away with being absent.”

Since skills courses meet infrequently throughout the week, it is imperative that students attend class to hone those skills, he said.

Lecturer of mathematics and actuarial science Mary Krohn has a similarly loose attendance policy  but agrees with Walsh on the importance of regular attendance.

“Attendance doesn’t count for a grade, but I do take attendance every day,” she said. “Having a record of attendance is good for students on the border. I want to make them accountable.”

Sophomore business and management information systems major Thach “Rocky” Huynh sees attendance policies in a more optimistic light than most students.

“Professors’ attendance policies are guides to keep students on track,” Huynh said. “They also can reflect the personality of the professor. The departments that are more involved with communication and discussion tend to have stricter attendance policies.”

He said he believes in the positive correlation between attendance and academic performance.

“It’s logical that frequent attendance leads to better performance,” Huynh said. “Coming to class is also essential to building relationships with your professors.”

Other programs, such as the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, have slightly different situations.

“My general pharmacy classes don’t really have an attendance policy,” fourth year pharmacy student Bonnie Kaminsky said. “They are all large lecture classes of about 130 students, so professors don’t take attendance. Attendance for our lab and recitation sections is mandatory, and if you have to miss one, you have to let the professor know in advance and make it up by attending a different section.”

Kaminsky said pharmacy classes are recorded online, making it easier for students to keep track of material if they miss class, but notes that a recording doesn’t compare to actually being present.

“I believe, particularly in my major, that it is important to attend class,” she said. “All of the information we cover in classes is relevant to being able to practice as a pharmacist.”

Most professors are willing to allow students an extra chance provided they put forth the effort, especially if students communicate with their professors.

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