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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Ely: The College Conundrum of Mandatory Attendance 

Students pay thousands of dollars to attend classes. Students should also be able to pay for skipping.
Madelyn Foulger
(Design by Madelyn Foulger | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


My first three weeks of the Fall 2023 semester included being stuck on a train in Europe, sleeping on the Denver Airport floor and spending countless days in bed with COVID-19. One would assume that the airport floor was the sole contributor to my positive test, and they would probably be right. But before I even made it to one of my classes in the semester, I got an email saying that I had used up my two absent days, and that I was kicked out of the class.

Although there can be both pros and cons to attendance as a student, the basic autonomy of young adults is being taken away. The overwhelming reality shows that functioning adults are being threatened or punished because of a lack of presence in a classroom that they are paying thousands for.

Students all around the world have stated cases of eliminating mandatory attendance, showing a trend in how students really feel about these policies. It’s time to change the narrative of what makes a good student and stand up for our own agency and choices as functioning adults who contribute to society.

Paying for Punishment

The average cost of tuition at the University of Utah is almost $10,000 for an in-state resident, and over $31,000 for out-of-state residents. The stress of costs alone shows more than enough proof to over-work the college student. After adding tuition onto an academic schedule, as well as a social life and a job, college students are run dry.

Independence is a crucial part of developing as humans, and it needs to be respected rather than taken away in these primal years. As students who work hard, we deserve to have our own autonomy and ability to make decisions for ourselves, whether it hurts or helps our grades. We have moved beyond the years of our parents driving us to school, packing us lunches and telling us what time to be home.

Being able to push through and survive your early 20s deserves a pat on the back as-is, so the fact that students are still being punished for not making it to class, emergency or not, is unacceptable. We choose to pay for our optional classes and our attendance, and that should include our absences.

 Control or Care?

By enforcing mandatory attendance, professors demand that students come to class and say “here” when their name is called. There is nothing else to attendance — it’s simply another form of control. Attendance merely means that a seat is being filled, but beyond that, the control lies within each student.

It is almost as if we are in elementary school again. Being micromanaged and belittled. The difference of a student who doesn’t go to class versus a student who does go only to sit on their phone is little to none.

Students are adults who oversee their academic careers and well-being. It is up to them and them only to decide their future and what it looks like, which means it is their choice.

When a student is unable to make a class due to mental or physical illness, one would hope that a professor would extend their thoughts and concerns — some may even extend due dates or health services. However, professors who seek to punish students only add to the abuse of control factor. Because of this consuming power dynamic, as well as a lack of understanding and empathy, the trust and rapport between the student and teacher is damaged.

However, some professors have a different view on the importance of mandatory attendance. Stephanie Bank, professor and interim BSW director of the U’s Social Work program, expressed the importance of social workers in training being present in class, allowing them to be certified to practice.

Bank says, “I just keep going back to wanting really well trained, efficient social workers and if you miss a quarter of the training, I wouldn’t want my doctor to miss a quarter of their training or it’s a lot and we’re in the health care profession,” said Bank. “And again, if this was another program, I don’t know if I’d care as much, but I feel like it’s vital when you’re carrying the Social Work title … that’s really what motivates me.”

The important aspect to remember is that everyone has a different viewpoint on the matter, and we should find the best attendance option for all parties intended.

 Liberating Minds and Independency

The key to growth in young adults is allowing them to develop their own sense of choices and decisions that shape them to be who they want to be. But the ironic part of being told that at a young age is how that advice is often changed and conditional depending on your environment. If students are independent enough to pay for their own education and bills, then students are independent enough to choose if they want to sit in class that day or not.

By allowing each student their own independence, they have the choice to go to college, attend their courses and build their own future. As students adjust to their lives and the chaos that surrounds them, being held responsible will teach them more than anyone else could force upon them.


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About the Contributor
Madelyn Foulger, Social Media Manager, Design Contributer
Madelyn started at the Chronicle in 2022 as a social media contributor and designer before becoming Social Media Manager in May 2023. She's majoring in film and media arts with a minor in human rights and resources. Madelyn enjoys various creative pursuits, including writing, illustration, design, film, and photography.

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