Class attendance should be optional

Photo credit: Grant Garnsey

Photo credit: Grant Garnsey

It’s Monday morning and I’m suddenly awoken by the annoying sound of my alarm clock. After hitting snooze three times, I grumpily roll out of bed, brush my teeth, throw on gym clothes and sunglasses, and I head to campus with my head down and headphones blasting. Remind me again why I ever thought that Monday classes were a good idea?

As I slump into my desk located in the dead back row of the classroom on my 17th first day of school, I twirl my knotted brunette hair and check every social media app on my phone in search for something to distract me from the boredom that lies ahead.

Four minutes pass and there is no sign of a professor. Just as I start to get excited, thinking that class is cancelled, the professor strolls in. F*ck. Here we go.

I plan to spend the next hour and 15 minutes doodling in my planner counting down the minutes until class is dismissed. For the first 15 minutes I contemplate if it’s possible to sneak out without being seen. Right as I see an exit path, I hear the threats every student fears from their professor. “Roll will be taken every day.

Each student will be allowed one unexcused absence. Further absences will result in your grade being dropped a letter.” F*ck again. So obviously I do what any good student would do: I suck it up and stay.

But is it really fair to make collegiate students’ attendance mandatory? I think not.

For all of our academic lives, attendance has always been mandatory. But why? Oh yes I remember, because going to school was mandatory. Back in elementary, middle or high school, people could actually be arrested for ditching school. People went because they had to.

Back then, the teachers determined your schedule and you had set school hours. It was more tolerable because everyone your age was in the same boat and had to go – not to mention public school was free.

Now we’re at the collegiate level. College is not mandatory; it is optional. If you choose to go to college, you make your own schedule and your own school hours. At this level, school is no longer free. Each year I pay a minimum of $7,000 on tuition alone. But you’re not at school because you have to, you’re at school because you want to.

If I choose to continue to pursue a college education, pay for my tuition, make my own hours, determine my own fate: I think I deserve to have the option of attendance. I truly believe that optional attendance has more potential pros then cons at the collegiate level.

First off, the students that came to class would be the students who truly wanted and needed to be there. This would create a closer student-professor relationship as well as more one-on-one time. Students would be forced to accept that college classes would have a “you get what you give” or “give and take” reward.

The students who choose not to go to class would not be punished for it. They would be choosing to learn the content on their own. This would create a more flexible schedule for them as well as extra time for a job or extracurricular activities.

On the other hand, some people or professors might argue that optional attendance would do more harm than good. Maybe more students will fail their courses. Or maybe students would become lazier or fall into bad habits with their extra time.

I argue that this is a risk both students and universities should be willing to take. College students are adults and choose to be in college. They should learn to prioritize. As paying adults, they deserve the choice.

I don’t know if all college universities will ever come to a universal agreement that class attendance should be optional or not. Maybe it’s just the senioritis talking, but I personally wish it was and I believe that I, like many other students, would benefit from it in the long run.

Julie Ramos can be reached at [email protected] or @julie_ramoss on Twitter.