EDITORIAL: Attendance shouldn’t be mandatory

Maleigh Crespo, Op/Ed Editor

Attendance policies are implemented at a young age to hold students accountable. Many of us have spent more than half our lives in grade school, being forced to attend every day or avoiding pesky absence letters and truancy officers.

In Louisiana, students ages 7 to 18 must be enrolled in school and attend a minimum of 167 days per 180-day academic-year to receive credit and be promoted to the next grade.

But that’s for children. We don’t need mandatory attendance policies to hold us accountable anymore.

Frankly, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Many of us work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. We are working our asses off to pay for higher education with surging tuition rates and stagnant scholarships, yet we are being punished for missing classes where we may not learn anything we can’t learn from home.

And paying ridiculous gas prices or waiting for a streetcar that’s always late to get to campus to attend a single in-person class is unbearable.

This isn’t to say that we don’t value or care about professors’ time and efforts. We do. But as students we are asking not only professors, but the university administration, to understand that we are just like them. We have lives and responsibilities outside of the classroom, too.

There are classes based entirely on classroom discussion and ensemble participation; in these cases, mandatory attendance is reasonable.

However, many students can excel academically without having to sit through a lecture, and their grades shouldn’t suffer because of a few absences.

Tests are an assessment of students’ knowledge and understanding of the material, and many of us are passing them without going to every class. Still, our grades are dropping due to attendance.

If we can perform well academically without physically being in a classroom, why is attendance mandatory?

We are paying money for higher education, and if we choose not to go to every single class, it shouldn’t drag us down.

We have advisors and success coaches for a reason. If we begin to fall behind or miss an exceeding number of classes, we have resources.

We’re adults, and we are capable of making decisions for ourselves, but Loyola only treats us like adults when it’s convenient for the institution.

Many of our programs of study require rigorous internships that call for 120 hours per semester. That’s roughly 10 hours each week, and while we can be paid for these internships, many of us aren’t. Furthermore, these internships are in professional settings in the nine to five window, which is when we have class.

And for those of us who have paid jobs to afford for tuition and living expenses, we are working about 20-30 hours a week on top of the 12-15 hours of class time each week.

Something has to give.

We have to pay our bills, so if the university wants us to be in these professional spaces–and keep affording rent and groceries–we’re going to have to miss some classes.

In the “real” world, employees are allotted a number of personal and sick days. Where are those days for us, especially for those who are even more vulnerable?

With the recent lift of the mask mandate on campus, immuno-compromised students are unable to attend in-person classes.

And some professors don’t allow Zoom options, a resource that was taken away too soon.

We understand that some professors have a hard time navigating virtual outlets with students in the classroom, but despite their goal to have students in class, having a Zoom option would better accommodate students’ needs.

Many professors allow a certain number of free absences, which we appreciate. But it’s not enough. We need a university-wide policy.

When we miss class for legitimate reasons, many professors don’t believe us anymore. While there are students who take advantage of the virtual options, there are real instances where students are sick and/or need to attend classes remotely. A doctor’s excuse is usually required in these circumstances, but many of us can’t afford to go to a hospital or wait hours for an appointment in the Student Health Center for a common cold or headache.

We are in the middle of a pandemic and political turmoil, but to make matters worse, in Louisiana, we’ve experienced an increase in natural disasters that have left us rattled.

So, excuse us for not being concerned about missing a few days of class to focus on our health and well-being. We can’t produce work unless we’re prioritizing ourselves and taking care of our bodies.

Our world has been in upheaval for quite some time now. We are desperately trying to get an education while living amidst tragedy and chaos, and we aren’t asking for much.

Don’t dock our grades or take it personally if we miss a few classes every now and then. We’re dealing with a lot, and we need support, not passive-aggressive Instagram posts about attendance.