Attendance policy should be lenient for emergencies

Angela Pagan

Professors should be more lenient with their individual attendance policies so students’ grades won’t suffer if they have to miss class for an emergency.

Since NIU does not have a set attendance policy, professors should be more understanding toward reasons given by students for missing class. Professors can determine what they consider an excused absence and can create their own policy on makeup work, according to NIU’s attendance policy.

This puts power into the hands of each professor, and students have to play a guessing game when it comes to whether their professors will be understanding of their circumstances or deny them a chance of making up missed work in times of emergencies.

“You get one professor that might give a lot of latitude but then one that’s overly strict … . Each professor can determine for himself or herself what constitutes an excused absence,” said William Pitney, Faculty Senate president and athletic training professor.

Students who know they will be absent for more than five days can contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. The office then sends an email to the instructor notifying them of the student’s absence; however, the professors’ individual policies still stand and the email may not constitute as an excused absence. This process is useless because it’s up to the professor if the absence is excused.

Patrick O’Connor, a French and Spanish instructor, said he drops the lowest quiz scores, which benefits students who can’t be in class.

“What I do for quizzes is typically I’ll drop their two lowest quiz grades to account for … possible missed classes if people need to miss from time to time. Other than that they cannot be made up,” O’Connor said.

This policy can become a problem for students trying to balance school, extracurricular activities, family and the unexpected surprises of life if instructors are not flexible. For example, if a student misses a quiz due to an emergency, dropping the lowest score does not help that student if he or she is already struggling in the course.

When these policies become most important is when assignments, quizzes or exams are involved. If a professor’s policy does not allow for make-up work even when family, work or other emergencies are involved then students’ grades suffer for reasons that are out of their control.

Freshman biology major Sergio Salazar said his grades have suffered more than once due to work emergencies and military obligations. He said he thinks professors are there to help him succeed, but not excusing him for an absence he couldn’t control doesn’t help him.

“I’m paying for school, I’m doing my work, so what’s the point of me doing all that if my professors aren’t going to be there to help me succeed like they’re supposed to?” Salazar said.

It would be best if instructors allowed for two absences without penalty, then if there are any further absences a student should discuss why they missed class with the professor. Professors should try to remain understanding. Sometimes things come up.

While skipping class to take a nap is not a good excuse, I think the death of a loved one, work emergencies or emergencies out of the student’s control trump attendance policies any day of the week.