Editorial: Attendance should only be 10% of overall grades at UK


Brady Saylor

Students walk out of the Gatton Student Center on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff

Editorial Board

Absences add up quickly, and with the usual two or three absences allotted for individual classes, they can be gone quicker than one might think. Because of this, the overall impact attendance should have on students’ grades should be no more than 10%.

The University Senate Rules document provides a list of acceptable excuses for absences, including significant mental and physical student and household illnesses, deaths of family members and major religious holidays.

With this long list of viable reasons for failing to show up to class, students still must verify their absences for their professors if asked to do so.

Gracie Tenner, a triple-major student at UK, studying political science, psychology and modern classical languages, with a focus in Latin, has had her fair share of absences during her time here.

Just this year, Tenner received the DRC accommodation for flexible attendance from her psychiatrist. With this accommodation, Tenner has found her teachers are more understanding of the reasons behind her absences.

“The thing was, the biggest impact on my grades was my attendance, it was not my performance, it was my attendance that absolutely tanked all of my grades,” Tenner said.

Most of the time, Tenner wasn’t aware how much of an impact her attendance had on her overall grade for classes due to her professor putting in her attendance grades at the end of the semester.

For example, at the beginning of her WRD 111 class, Tenner had a low A, but due to her attendance and participation points being put in at the end of the semester, Tenner’s grade dropped to a C, and she was left confused and scrambling for a remedy for her grade drop.

“It was during finals week, I had to talk to my psychiatrist back home and have him write a letter that told her (the instructor) to excuse those absences for me, because it was extraneous circumstances and I had been struggling,” Tenner said.

Tenner says that some of her teachers have asked her if she needed help or resources for her struggles, which she has been getting for years.

“I’m getting help, but it’s not a swift kind of thing” Tenner said. “It just takes time to heal these kinds of things, I’ve gone through therapy, I’m coping as best as I possibly can right now, however that still sometimes means it’s gonna take me two or three weeks to recover because it’s a mental and not a physical illness.”

Tenner said she believes teachers should reward those who come to class and participate, especially if students come and show a clear interest in course content. When students do well in course content, but don’t show up, teachers should consider if something else is going on.

She also believes it is easier to get professors to understand extraneous circumstances regarding absence in higher level classes, since they are smaller and tend to have more opportunities to connect with teachers.

Regarding excused absences or being absent from class with an extraneous circumstance, it is always best for students to communicate with professors to ensure that these absences are not affecting their grade severely. 

If students have excused absences that are a total of 20% of an individual class, they can request withdrawal, or their instructor can mark the course as incomplete.

With everyday life back to relative normalcy after the pandemic and classes no longer all-online (unless students chose the online route for classes), attendance policies are no longer laxed due to the virus.

And some students may be getting back into the flow of fully in-person classes still.

After being forced into quarantine for almost two years and living during an unprecedented pandemic, the path to regaining normalcy is different for everyone.

Not to mention, since we are paying for our education at this institution (and since most of us are adults), we should have a right to decide how our educational journey will go.

David Griffith, a junior political science major at UK, said that when he took Peace Studies 201, his grade also dropped from an A to a C due to attendance.

Since Griffith is on the debate team at UK, he racks up a lot of absences due to traveling for events.

“For Peace Studies, I remember, there was an attendance requirement, but it wasn’t clear what it was,” Griffith said. “It was more of a participation grade and not so much an attendance requirement and it wasn’t clear what days that the participation assignments would be on, and they weren’t put into canvas until the very end of the semester.”

Two UK students spend time at Starbucks on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at William T. Young Library in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff 

Attendance points should be put into Canvas while the semester is going on, not at the end when students are focusing on finals or getting last minute assignments in.

Most, if not all, students understand that attendance is important, and to understand course content and keep up to date with assignments, it’s necessary.

But students shouldn’t face steep declines in grades — especially if they are continuing to turn in their assignments on time, understanding the course content and communicating with their teachers regarding their absences.

A student dealing with mental health strife during the semester should be allowed more than two or three excused absences.

A student dealing with the death of a family member should be allowed more than two or three excused absences.

So, too, should students who have to schedule doctors’ appointments during class times be excused. We shouldn’t be penalized for seeking healthcare, especially if we are communicative about it with our instructors and willing to make up assignments within a reasonable time.

That’s why a baseline percentage is needed when calculating attendance into a student’s grade. The weight that attendance carries in our overall grade in individual classes for a semester can be heavy. 

Participation points should also be separate from attendance and cumulative throughout the semester, especially since there are students who actively go to class and participate during class or group discussion, while on the other hand, there are students who go to class and simply sit and retain information but don’t utter a word or contribute to the discussion.

Students can attend class and not actively participate. With both of these categories separate, students who attend class and participate can be awarded for it, but those who attend and don’t participate will not face a penalty — they just won’t receive the specific points for participation. 

And participation can be tracked in different ways, from discussion boards, in class assignments or by answering a question in class. If students participate, they should be awarded. If they don’t, they simply should not receive the points for it.

Attendance, much different than participation, should be worth 10% across all college departments. That way, it impacts students across the board in the same way.

Then, it is up to students to decide if they wish to take more time to deal with mental health issues, grief or even take an appointment during class time.

If a student exceeds the usual number of two or three excused absences allowed in a class, their grade shouldn’t drop by a lot, especially if they are keeping up with the curriculum, assignments and communicating with their professor.

Most students at this university understand that going to class is important, but when unforeseen circumstances happen, mental health declines, tragedy strikes in a family or any other perfectly reasonable explanation communicated to a professor occurs, students should be allowed the time to deal with it. 

And that time should not be reflected in students’ attendance grades — especially if they understand course content, continue to do well on exams and turn in class assignments on time.

College is hard enough on students with its high costs and the added stress that comes with juggling jobs and extracurriculars as well as the pressure to perform academically. 

The least UK can do is put a limit on how much students’ grades will be affected by attendance.