The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Attendance should be optional

When young students begin their foray into higher education, they are, in most cases, also beginning their journey into adulthood. One would think college would reflect this change, and in most cases our university succeeds in providing new adult freedoms. 

However, Mississippi State University has one policy in place that leaves me confused as to why it even exists in a school attended by adults: the attendance policy. In short, MSU’s attendance policy makes class attendance mandatory. 

While the overarching policy enacted by MSU admittedly does not require such measures, in many cases—within the scope of underclassmen courses especially—attendance is factored directly into one’s final grade. 

The first question one might deign to ask is: “Why?” Well, claims skipping class is “… detrimental to the learning process.” 

While I believe most students would not necessarily claim otherwise, this still is not a strong enough reason to allow professors to count a single absence for a 5 or 10 percent deduction from one’s grade or, in some cases, multiple letter grades worth of points. 

The fact is, we as students are either paying our own money or allowing ourselves to fall into debt to attend this university. Because of this, we should be allowed to do whatever we want when it comes to how we approach our courses. 

Now, all of this does not mean that missing class on days of tests, quizzes or any other type of graded material should be acceptable; obviously, a college student is responsible for any and all coursework associated with said course. 

If a student chooses to miss something important, he or she should be held accountable. However, the vast majority of days in most classes do not fall under this umbrella of days with graded material. 

It should not be up to the university or individual professors to manage our time for us. If we are to be held accountable for our actions via grades, we should be allowed to choose our own method of dealing with our courses. 

Sam Artley, a former undergraduate at Michigan State University, as quoted on, said it best: “Inflating grades with 10 to 20 percent of your score coming from attendance is a poor judgment of an individual’s competency in the course.” 

Even in practice, the current attendance policy does not create much benefit for anyone. If someone is a chronic class-skipper, they might not be persuaded to go even by mandated attendance. If their grade is already underwhelming, dropping it even further as a direct effect of their attendance is doing no one any favors. 

Some students, myself included in select courses, do better learning the material on their own as opposed to attending lecture. Some students are perfectly capable of performing outstandingly in a course without having to attend much, if at all. 

For instance, I have had a course here at MSU that, had an attendance policy not been in effect, I would have completed with an A. I turned in every assignment on time and took every test, performing well on all of them. At the end of the semester though, my grade was automatically dropped to a B because I missed two or three more days than was allowed. 

Though of course it was my fault for neglecting to adhere to the attendance policy, this anecdote serves as an easy example as to why the attendance policy is flawed. 

A minimal amount of research has been done to prove whether or not forced attendance even leads to better grades. outlines a study done by an individual professor, Jonathan Golding, where he examined the effect of class attendance over an 11-year period. 

It was found that the more often students came to class, the better they performed on their tests. However, years in which there was no attendance policy in effect actually yielded higher average exam scores. 

There is no definitive proof that requiring attendance creates a measurable effect on students’ grades, which sparks an interesting question: Why would a university create a system based on an unproven fact? Whatever the answer may be, it is depriving students of a choice they have a right to make. 

If I pay for something with my own money, I believe strongly that I should have complete autonomy as to how I use it. Education is no different. Subway does not tell me how my sandwich should look before I eat it, so why should MSU tell me how I should approach calculus before I learn it?  

If I squander my higher education away, that is on me. Nonetheless, it is my right to squander class time just as much as it is my right to take full advantage of classes. All students are different, and learning is not done in a concrete “one size fits all” manner. MSU should abolish its strict “one size fits all” attendance policy.

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Attendance should be optional