How harsh attendance policies spread illness
Being graded on attendance is a fact of life in higher education. If you don’t show up to learn, you won’t get the grade. But when it comes to being held accountable for showing up to every class, the decision isn’t really ours.
Too much of the grade we earn is reliant not upon our hard work, but simply upon our physical presence. Every year, our campus is hit hard with the flu, various strains of colds, croup, strep throat and everything in between, because there are so many sick students coming to class.
Many of us pay out of pocket for our education. People get funding from loans, family, scholarships and holding a job while in school. If the cost of going to college alone isn’t enough to motivate us to actually attend, I don’t know what is. Why is it that attendance can consistently count for up to a whole quarter of our final grade? If you drag yourself to class with a fever, drugged out on cold medicine and barely lucid, your presence isn’t benefiting anyone—especially yourself.
Theatre senior Robert Gebarowski is currently attending classes while ill. He has had the flu and a fever for almost a week, and he says he feels terrible.
“I’m in class, exposing my classmates to my contagion, because an absence would reflect too negatively on my grade,” Gebarowski said. “If I were to just stay home, I would not only get well quicker, but avoid possibly getting others sick.”
Most professors allow for one unexcused absence. As a result, many of us are left praying that sickness only strikes us one day in a given quarter. Most of the illnesses that arrive with winter weather aren’t worthy of a doctor’s visit. Sick enough to not attend school doesn’t necessarily mean sick enough to go to the hospital. Obtaining the necessary doctor’s note to avoid further penalization on our grades is just another way we’re forced to get ourselves out of the house while we are ill.
“We’re working on our end to make the professors understand that we are not a note factory,” Karen MacPherson, a registered nurse at PSU’s Center for Student Health and Counseling, said.
“Many of the students who are ill should stay at home. They don’t always need a doctor or a nurse, sometimes home care is the best care,” MacPherson said.
Sick students over-exerting themselves by trudging to class only prolongs their sickness. If you’re dealing with the flu or a fever, it’s better to accept that taking some time to recuperate is vital for a faster recovery. Part of that is learning how best to treat their illnesses.
“Students can go on the SHAC website and find information on how to differentiate between symptoms for flu, cold and allergies to help them understand what they’re dealing with,” MacPherson said.
If a students needs to stay out a week to regain their health and prevent others from suffering from their illness, it shouldn’t be something for which their grade will be sacrificed. Students should be held accountable for their work and for contributing to classroom discussions. If we present ourselves as an active and positive individual in the classroom the majority of the year, our final grade should reflect that.
“I think it should be graded more heavily on participation. Because right now if you have more than one absence you’re really screwed. And realistically, most people miss more than one class,” sophomore film major Kelsey DuPriest said.
There is the argument that more lenient attendance policies would leave our classrooms half-empty. This is not to say that constantly playing hooky shouldn’t result in some kind of penalization. But it should be our responsibility to regulate our own attendance, not based entirely on the demands of our professors.
If our work can earn a high grade, does that not prove that we are gaining something from our education? The students of PSU are here by choice. And likewise, we should be given a better opportunity to judge when we are not fit for attending school.