Professor Absences Hinder Student Learning

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Woody Allen once said, “Half of life is showing up,” which rings true for most people, especially when it comes to going to class. When you show up for class, you are more likely to understand the material and ask questions that were not answered by the homework.

Sometimes we do not have a choice but to show up for class. The attendance policy differs from professor to professor, but a widely-used policy says grades begin to suffer at three absences.

Alternatively, other professors tell students that attendance is not taken and allow us to decide whether or not to go to class. In each case, students attendance expectatons are clearly defined and outlined in a class syllabus.

We have difinitive ways of measuring the level of importance in attendance, and sometimes we suffer consequences if those levels are not met.  Why is the same not true for professors?

Marvella Luey, the Assistant to the Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “Professors are expected to show up for all the classes they have. They do not have an attendance policy.”

In general, professors can miss class whenever they need to. “We want professors to be able to miss class for emergencies or because of an illness,” said Luey. Professors must make their students aware they are missing class through an email or by contacting their department, who will send an email to their students. They must provide students with a valid reason for missing class. Luey also said that the only time professors cannot miss class is if a leave is requested ahead of time and denied by the department. This week, student stress levels will rise with midterm study hours. Professors must be in classes to field questions and help with major assignments. Sometimes it is nice when a professor cancels class as it allows us to have free time to fit in extra studying, work on papers, or just catch up on sleep, but when this practice becomes a regular occurrence it does not facilitate our learning process and leaves us feeling unprepared for upcoming exams.

We pay roughly $4,000 per class. When we choose not to attend some of us feel guilty.  But it is our choice.

If we walk into class and the professor is not there and has a movie playing instead, most of us are not staying. The majority will sign the attendance sheet and leave.  We have things to do outside of school just as professors do.

We can watch a movie on our own time outside of class and not waste  a minimum of an hour and a half watching it instead of  class.  The classroom is where we should be getting the lecture we need to better understand the course material.

Professors get paid regardless of whether they are in class or not, but how are we being compensated for the money we spent on that class? Is an unprepared feeling going into a midterm supposed to be sufficient reimbursement?

Many professors require us to see them or email them before or after the class we miss.  If not, they expect to see us in class on time.  The same is true of student expectations for professors.  Every time we enter a classroom we expect to see our professor there.

Everyone gets sick or has some sort of scheduling conflict once in a while, and it is reasonable for us to expect to be notified in advance instead of walking into a classroom with no instructor.

But when professors routinely miss classes several times a month, it prohibits us from getting everthing we can out of the course and makes it impossible to get the attention from a professor that many depend on and expect, given the small class sizes at USF.

Some professors notice their constant absence and choose to push back an important exam knowing they have not fairly taught the material, while others choose to follow the syllabus verbatim, despite lingering student questions never answered due to professor absences. Of course professors have office hours, but sometimes those hours conflict with other classes or obligations.

There must be a more rigid attendance policy for professors in order to hold them accountable to their students. The only power we have right now are professor evaluations at the end of the course, which is often too late.  There should be a better balance of consequences between students missing class and professors missing class on a regular basis.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I think the quote was “Eighty percent of being successful in life is showing up” from his film “Play it Again, Sam”. But you guys got the gist of it. Well done!

  2. This is one of the reasons why I think Tenure should be taking out and I am definitely going to bring this up to senate.

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