I think that all professors should be able to make their own attendance policy, and if that means attendance is for the most part mandatory, then so be it. Many classes at Knox, especially discussion-based classes, require students to be present and engaged for the class to work and succeed. Making attendance not mandatory across the board would generally weaken these classes, as the students who do show up would be at a detriment because of the students who didn’t.
There is definitely room for debate about whether or not three absences, or two absences, or whatever professors choose, is “enough” for the average student. If a student needs more than those allotted dates, they should speak with disability services and their professors to make sure they know they will be absent more than what is considered “usual.”
Realistically, some students are only motivated to do work by the fact that they have to show up in class and talk about what they read or wrote.
We are adults who are going under massive debt to pay for our classes. If I choose not to be in class, I think I should be trusted with that decision. It is on the students if they miss important material due to their absence. Besides, students with certain disabilities may not be able to attend class for reasons that cannot be predicted or excused via their academic accommodations. Why should their absence count against them if they catch up with the material and demonstrate that during tests? And as far as participation goes: how is the participation of a student who did not do the reading matter more (grade-wise) than the critical thinking of a student who did the reading and reflected on it but did not physically attend class?
We are privileged enough to have smaller classes where the progress and learning of every student can be monitored and assessed without having to rely on a sign-up sheet to indicate hard work.
Mandatory attendance is counterintuitive, distrustful of students and inaccessible.
Coming from the perspective of someone who has a disability, there are times when I attend a class that, in retrospect, was a less effective use of my time than taking extra time to sleep or catch up on coursework. There isn’t always a ‘good enough’ excuse for me to not want to attend class other than being too tired to engage with the material to be discussed that day. My engagement with the material in those cases comes more from me taking time to read on my own than attempting to weigh in on a conversation that I haven’t properly prepared for. While I do think some students might take advantage of having no attendance policy, it should be up to us to decide how to make the most of our education. From my assumption, most Knox students are engaged and interested in the material enough to attend classes regularly even if there’s no attendance policy. In classes where professors hardly notice who is present or absent in a class, there seem to hardly be days where a large majority of the class is absent. From this, I gather that students at Knox are responsible enough to attend their courses if they care about their education. While the degree in which presence and participation matter depends greatly on the department and field of study, I feel that mandatory attendance does not in every case ensure that students are engaged with their work.
Part of going to a small liberal arts college is that the intimate discussions you have in class are supposed to inform the narrative you construct in your papers and projects. Once you miss an excessive amount of classes, you’ve robbed yourself of unquantifiable subject material and you’ve also robbed your fellow peers of a proper education. When you enter a class based on discussion, you’re entering into a commitment that you’ll provide as much as you’ll take. That being said, I have faith that students understand that burden when they agree to join a discussion-based class. If they need to miss a class date due to mental health reasons or illness, they’re not in a state where their presence could add value. Furthermore, them being forced to be present could be detrimental to their health. If they wanted to blow off a class for fun, their additions to class that day probably wouldn’t be the most inspired anyway. Candidly, students do not pay an exorbitant amount of money for a class and miss it for fun. They needed that break. Professors shouldn’t put a limit on how many classes a student is allowed to miss, they should instead trust the implicit bond between a class and its students. At the very least, there should be a school-wide policy on attendance and what counts as excusable. Having to guess which professors will be accepting if I’m too depressed to show up and which will count that as a percentage point down “because absences are absences,” is not okay.