The Problem with Emerson Attendance Policy

We’ve all been there. You open your eyes at 9:20 am, knowing full well you have your elective at 10. But you also know that your head is pounding, your throat is drier than the Sahara, your nose is running faster than your legs ever could and you feel like ten bricks were just chucked at your body. Nope, you’re not hungover; you’re sick. But you also know you only have one unexcused absence left and…there are two months left of the semester. Groaning, aching and melting in your own skin, you reluctantly roll your limbs out of bed and begin your routine.

Emerson’s attendance policy is, needless to say, strict. It’s said that most professors assign a policy of 3 unexcused absences and unlimited excused absences. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve had professors only allow 2, 1, or even no unexcused absences for the entirety of the semester. And when the pool of reasons from which excused absences can be drawn is so small, it becomes increasingly difficult for Emerson students to maintain a good grade in class while still tending to their physical and mental needs.

I have never before experienced such a hard-working, dedicated environment of students who will go to class through so much. I myself have sat through classes even with treacherous stomach bugs and eye infections. The scary part to me is that it seems the school would prefer we come to class with our contagious illnesses than stay home and rest. It’s clear the quality of our work in class is greatly diminished during these instances, and yet, we still push through.

I find it absurd the inconsistency between professors’ policies. I’ve had professors who have excused people for public transportation issues, colds and picking up extra shifts at work, as well as professors who have refused to grant excused absences for family deaths, funerals and weddings. As adults between the ages of 18 and 22, students should be given enough responsibility and respect to come to class on their own terms. With such strict attendance policies, it feels like the college doesn’t trust us to manage our own educations. And it’s saddening that professors will often assume dishonesty or laziness, no matter the excuse a student gives.

When a professor once addressed my class on the first day with “You will be given no excused absences. You are adults, and if you want to come to class, you will,” it was unbelievable to me. Being absent from class is so much more than merely not wanting to come. We as adults understand the economic toll our education has on our lives, and we know to take it very seriously. Yes, there are days when we are tired, bored or hungry and don’t feel like going to class, but professors need to start taking our health more seriously. Nothing, no not even your hour-and-45-minute-long seminar, matters more than our health.

At the end of the day, students are in control of their education. They will take as much, or as little, from it as they desire. It is not a professor’s job to force students into their classroom; if a professor is being respectful and fair, then students will naturally want to come to class. It’s as simple as that. Health is wealth, and us Emerson students are going to be needing some major wealth if we dream of funding our expensive undergraduate educations.

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