Low class attendance can override good exam scores

The end of the semester brings frantic assessment of tests and assignments to try and determine the grade the professors will submit. However, knowing scores of graded assignments may not be as good an indicator of grades as students may think.

Attendance policies can have a big influence on a final grade in any class, but the reasoning behind having or not having a policy varies depending on who you speak with.

“I just care about my students’ academic life very deeply,” said Smeeta Mishra, a professor in the Journalism Department. “I feel as if it’s my responsibility and the attendance policy is my way of expressing it.”

David Sears, an instructor in the Romance Languages Department, has an attendance policy requiring students to be in class 80 percent of the semester. The penalty for not doing so is an ‘F’, regardless of assignment and test grades.

“I don’t think a university should be a diploma mill where students think that, because they pay their money, they can do what they want,” Sears said. “Those students aren’t really interested in learning. They just want a degree to show a prospective employer.”

Bill Bavers, junior, thinks the policy makes things difficult for students.

“There are times when life happens. You can’t force anybody to learn,” Bavers says.

But part of that ‘life’ is going to class according to Katie Twomey, freshman. But Twomey believes the decision belongs with the students and not the professors.

“If they’re trusting us to live on our own, they should trust us to make our own decisions about class,” Twomey says. “It’s your own loss if you don’t go to class.”

Peg Yacobucci, a professor in the Department of Geology, wants her students to learn the subject matter. However, she does not implement it in all of her classes because she agrees that students need to make their own decisions because of the learning opportunity involved.

“The reason I don’t have a mandatory attendance policy is because I think college students are adults capable of making decisions about their priorities and responsibilities,” Yacobucci said. “I think students need practice in developing their time-management skills, an opportunity that a mandatory attendance policy takes away from students.”

A syllabus search on the BGSU Web site showed many classes have a policy in place. However, most of them drop grades depending on how many classes are missed.

This allows the student to prioritize how low of a grade they’re willing to tolerate before going to class. A class attendance grade isn’t the only way a student’s grade can be affected, though, according to Mary Natvig, professor of Music, Composition and Theory.

“I believe upperclassmen should be responsible enough to choose whether they come to class or not, however, they must take the consequences of not coming,” said Natvig, who has no attendance policy for her upper level class. “In this class, we have lectures that pertain directly to the papers they have to write on the various musical performances they attend. If they do not include the background information in their papers, which is given in the lectures, then their grade suffers.”

Yacobucci also has graded assignments in class and says lecture material factors during testing.

“Students are much better prepared for assignments and exams if they’ve been regularly attending class, so the benefits of attending class are clear,” Yacobucci says.

Brittany Boulton, junior, isn’t as concerned about graded assignments in class as she is about the courses that have only one or two grades, such as the midterm and the final exams.

“[An attendance grade] gives extra padding sometimes when there are few grades in the course,” Boulton says.

While many reasons for the policies are based on grades and academics, some are in place because the professor doesn’t want to be the only person in the class who works.

“I feel like I personally invest in every student, and because I’m going so far beyond my duties, they should reciprocate,” Mishra said. “Because I give them so much, I want that back. I have that right.”

Of course there are the students who find themselves in the slump of semester’s end, tired of class and frustrated with the responsibility they find they have for their own grades.

Erin Seemann, sophomore, is grateful for the policy for those reasons.

“A lot of times I won’t feel like going, and I know that I should. If I know it’s required, then it motivates me to go,” Seemann said.