Opinions

Active Absence

By Claudia Leslie, Contributor

Although attendance policy varies among professors, at Furman, most expect you to be in class unless you are on your deathbed. Some professors go as far as bringing down your grade if you miss three classes, excused or unexcused. This unofficial policy encourages students to go to class even if they have a contagious illness. Perhaps this is one of the factors behind the spread of the “Furman plague” that occurred earlier this semester.

At other schools, there exists something called active absence. If you are sick or cannot make it to class, you can skype into class that day or watch the professor’s lecture online. You are later expected to do some sort of assignment, like write a paragraph summarizing the lecture. Your absence is then wiped clean and will not affect your grade.

It is almost unheard of for a professor to allow active absences here at Furman. Is this a good or bad thing? The ability to have an active absence can keep a student from coming to class who may pass on an illness to other peers or allow a student to avoid punishment if they are in an unavoidable circumstance that made it impossible to be in attendance. However, it can also encourage students to skip when they are hungover or just do not feel like coming to class. There is a fine line between being understanding of students and letting them skip class whenever they want.

Some professors, like Dr. Kooistra in the sociology department, seem to have been able to find that balance. Students in his class say he puts all his lecture notes online, but expects his students to be responsible enough to be in class unless they are truly unable to attend. More Furman professors should consider the possibility of active absence, especially if they trust their students.

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