Home Campus OPINION: Ohio U attendance policies need clarity and unity in light of student illness

OPINION: Ohio U attendance policies need clarity and unity in light of student illness

6 min read
This banner welcoming Ohio U President Nellis hangs outside his office in Cutler Hall.

As students across campus continue to suffer from various illnesses including the flu, opinion writer Spencer Costello argues attendance policies need reworked.

At the height of our current flu season, almost 8 percent of Americans — many being college students — were infected by seasonal influenza. The close quarters of classroom learning and dorm living have college students living nearly on top of each other. It is easy for the flu to thrive in an environment where everything is constantly being shared, borrowed, used and touched.

When infected with influenza, it is recommended that people wait 24 hours after all symptoms are gone until they return to work and school. For students, the flu can last up to five days, so they will have to miss six full days of school.

Many professors’ attendance policies do not allow students to miss more than a few classes forcing students to make a tough decision between good health or a good grade in class.

Professors have widespread views on attendance, but what they all agree on is that students should be in class. Attending class can be vital to understanding the ideas professors are trying to convey. This means the professors implement strict attendance policies for students so that they are incentivized attend class. Students may completely understand the course material and perform well on exams, but their final grade may be harmed due to lack of attendance. Professors may think they have their students’ best interests in mind when forcing them to attend class, but grading students on attendance doesn’t have any concrete correlation to how well one understands course material.

Sitting out of a couple of classes so one doesn’t risk infecting their peers should not be punished by strict attendance policies. Students infected by the flu virus sometimes go to class anyways so that they aren’t marked absent and don’t miss a test or an assignment. Attendance policies also should not penalize any student with a doctor’s note or proof of illness. Here at Ohio University, if a student is absent for the first contact hours and fails to show evidence of an excused absence, professors have the option to remove the student from their class. This is very unfair to students who may be ill at the beginning of a semester. Students shouldn’t be penalized for staying at home and preventing the spread of illness.

Unexcused absences can be limited to prevent slacking, but not all absences are kids carelessly cutting class. When it comes to time management, college students make tough decisions to determine what is in their best interest. In certain instances, studying for a midterm instead of attending a large lecture is the best use of one’s time. Sometimes there are things in life that are more important than attending class, like tending to family and legal issues. Legitimate cases of absence shouldn’t be reflected in a student’s grade.

The use of new technology has also changed the way students attend class. One of the programs Ohio U uses is Top Hat. Top Hat electronically takes attendance after students submit the attendance code or answer a question provided by the professor, effectively bringing the classroom to the student instead of the student to the classroom.

And at the end of the day, college students are adults. They should be able to prioritize their schedules on their own time without being punished.

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