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OSU teachers disagree on importance of attendance

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

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In high school, playing hooky and skipping a day of classes was sometimes punishable by detention, but what about in college? Should students be required to go to every class?

At Ohio State, like many other universities, whether or not students ultimately go to class is up to them, but some professors emphasize the importance of attending every class.

English professor Margaret Goscilo said she allows students to have only two unexcused absences per quarter because “students who aren’t in class don’t do as well.”

“Class is a necessity,” Goscilo said. “It’s just silly to not be there.”

Communication professor Brad Bushman agrees that class is necessary to students’ success, although he does not take attendance in his classes.

“It’s their choice, but my goal is to make (my students) want to come to class,” Bushman said. “Even the best and brightest students can benefit from going to class.”

Bushman said he thinks students who attend class earn better grades than those who don’t, but that isn’t his job to ensure students attend his lectures.

“They’re adults. This is not elementary school, this is not middle school, this is not high school,” Bushman said. “They’re adults. It’s their money, they can do whatever they want with it.”

Associate professor of statistics Jackie Miller agreed with Bushman’s sentiments.

“I should be offering you something in lecture such that you want to be there, and forcing you to be there is ridiculous,” Miller said.

Goscilo had a different opinion.

“I think it would be wonderful to not have to police attendance, but I almost don’t dare leave it up to students,” Goscilo said.

Miller requires attendance in recitation, but she gives students options when it comes to attending lectures.

“One (option) is attending face-to-face, and the other one is attending synchronously via Adobe Connect,” Miller said.

The Adobe Connect option allows students to attend class from home and includes the option for students to text in questions they have for Miller as she teaches. Students can also watch recorded lectures after class is over.

“It is hard to miss my class, because there’s really no excuse,” Miller said. “There are people, though, who just won’t (attend). And like I said, it’s their choice. Hopefully I’m giving them something that they want to attend for.”

Nick Villalba, a fourth-year in animal science, said attending class should be a choice.

“We’re paying for (the classes), so we should be able to do whatever we want,” Villalba said. “It’s our right, and our decision.”

Villalba said he has taken classes in which it wasn’t necessary to attend every lecture. He said he thinks he performed the same as he would have if he had attended every class.

Miller agreed that missing class might not always negatively affect class performance.

“My research assistant and I did a presentation last month and our data showed that (students who don’t attend class) didn’t necessarily do worse,” Miller said.

Previous knowledge and understanding the material could be a bigger factor in a student’s performance in a class than attendance, she said.

Malcolm Cole, a first-year in pharmaceutical sciences, said it makes sense to attend discussion-based classes in areas such as English or history, but agreed with Miller in that some students might not need to attend every lecture in subjects they understand well.

Cole said he had mixed feelings about attending class.

“Realistically, (making class mandatory) would probably improve grades. But on the other hand, some people might come to class and just get on Facebook or sleep, so they might as well just stay home,” Cole said.

Bushman said making all in-class information available online is unfair to those who come to class.

“I make sure the exam reflects what we cover in class so that it’s fair,” Bushman said.

Aside from missing out on learning the course material, Goscilo said absence from class can make students feel separated from the rest of the class.

“It is positive to have interaction and class discussion, because it helps students get into the class and participate, making it more enjoyable,” Goscilo said.

Miller also spoke on the positive points of attending class.

“We should want to be in the classroom, all of us. And I want to be in the classroom, that’s why I do what I do,” Miller said.

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