Woody Allen once said “at least half the part of being successful is already done by showing up.” Fairfield U students face a variety of attendance policies which reward them for simply showing up to class rather than for how much they actually know.

Take a look at any one of a student’s many syllabi and you will probably notice the different policies: attendance and participation is 10 percent of your final grade; attendance and participation will count as a test grade; if you miss more than three classes the final grade will drop; participation will be counted by keeping a written record of the amount of times you answer questions in class.

“If you’re missing class and still pulling off good grades then it shouldn’t matter,” says Dave Muccino ’07. “In theory, understanding the subject should matter the most but students need to be encouraged to go to class.”

“If I really don’t feel like going to class then it [the policies] doesn’t matter…I had a teacher once who really sucked and I didn’t go and did better learning the stuff on my own then putting up with the teacher,” says Chris Jangl ’05.

Other students see the policies as an added bonus that is designed to help their grade instead of hurt it.

“It can help students on the fringe of getting a good grade get knocked up over the top,” says Chris Anastasi ’07.

“We want 100 percent attendance and 100 percent participation,” says Dr. Curtis Naser, of the Philosophy Department. “The policies are partly there to motivate students to come to class and can be used for when a student fails. I have a written record so when they complain I can say, ‘You missed one-third of the classes.'”

Naser, who uses a 10 percent attendance and participation policy in his classes, believes that since learning is an activity, it is necessary for students to play an active role. For him the real importance is placed on the other 90 percent of the grade.

“Grades, in general, are an abstraction. They are a numeric value based on a professor’s judgment of a student’s performance, but they are not the whole story,” he said.

According to Orin Grossman, academic vice president, the university has no official position on this matter.

“A faculty member has the right, within reason, to construct a set of requirements and evaluations that he or she considers lead to the best student learning outcomes,” he says. “Some faculty members think that participation and attendance requirements, in addition to helping the learning process, prepares students for the real world. In many work situations, you may be doing a pretty good job, but if you don’t show up for meetings or working group sessions, you won’t get very far.”

Many students most likely enter college with the idea that the days of roll call and having your hand raised before anyone else in class were finally over. Or perhaps they think that in higher education your grade will be based on more concrete requirements, such as two or three exams or papers each semester. These students are often surprised when strict attendance policies are introduced at the beginning of the semester.

“In college you’re supposed to be responsible for your own grades and your own life and it makes you feel like you’re still in high school when teachers are counting how many times you said stuff in class … if you don’t go to class you will know when you get your grades,” says Deanna DiPaolo ’05.

“All my grades were negatively affected by the policies. Even when I got A’s on every assignment I would still get a B at the end of the semester on the grounds that I had missed so many classes or hadn’t helped out enough in class,” said Matthew Smylie ’03. “I don’t think the teachers realized that if the class was worth attending and participating in then students would do so regardless of a policy ”

Smylie graduated Fairfield University at the top of his class, on the Dean’s List, and with a double major in physics and German, and is currently a Fulbright Scholar working on the development of a Junction-Regulated Photoconductor, in Germany.

“I understand the rationale behind the policies but I always got the feeling that maybe they were designed for some students to help bring along other students. Like the teachers wanted to have some of the students teach for them,” he said.

Many current students, like Sean Gleason ’07, believe that tests and assignments are better indicators of student’s mastery of the subject and using attendance and participation can unnecessarily hurt a lot of students.

“Some very smart people who understand the stuff well are affected by distractions that keep them out of the classroom,” he said.

For those students who challenge attendance and participation, Grossman offered some advice: “You are not in charge of the course … I would say that in general part of the learning process is learning how to prepare for life, not just the course material … you should get used to the idea that you are not the judge of whether you are making a satisfactory contribution to the overall experience.”

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