Western lacks campus-wide attendance policy

College offers many students the chance to get away from home and the opportunity to make their own decisions.

Like whether to go to class or stay in bed.

Western administrators say there is an expectation campus-wide, among campus leaders and faculty, that students will attend class regularly – and not sleep in.

But despite the expectation, Western does not have a university-wide policy governing attendance. Any decisions regarding class attendance, said Provost Barbara Burch, is left to the discretion of individual professors.

Western isn’t alone.

The University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky do not have campus-wide attendance policies.

At U of L, instructors decide whether to have a class attendance policy, according to Kira Hazelwood of the university’s admissions office.

“It’s highly recommended that you attend class,” she said.

In Lexington, it’s much of the same.

According to the UK Dean of Students’ Code of Conduct book, instructors can set an attendance policy for their class, but are required to give the policy to students during the first or second class meeting of the semester.

At Western, with no specific attendance policy outlined by the university, professors and students have different ideas about what, if any, policy there should be.

History professor Carlton Jackson said over the years he has had varying attendance policies.

Jackson said one policy gave students three excused absences with no questions asked, but after the third absence students were required to write a two-page paper on the subject they missed when absent.

“In my opinion, absenteeism is the single greatest problem for freshman classes,” he said.

But Jackson said he does not think the university should implement an overall attendance policy and, as it does now, leave it up to instructors to decide.

“I’m a great believer in academic freedom,” he said.

However, some instructors have mixed feelings about Western defining a specific attendance policy.

Public Health professor Lisa Lindley said a consistent policy would be a welcome ally for professors but that many instructors are not as concerned with attendance as others.

“I’m really kind of torn between that,” she said.

While Western, U of L and UK do not have campus-wide attendance policies, one state university implemented such a policy in 2001. According to administrators at Murray State University, the policy has been positive.

Murray Registrar Donna Harris said Murray’s policy allows two types of excused absences, including personal illness or death or absence due to participation in an event sanctioned by the university.

The policy allows professors to add additional requirements, but those must be outlined in a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, Harris said.

She said the university-wide policy caused much debate among faculty. But the decision to have the policy was an important one for students and faculty.

“It more clearly defines what both groups should and should not do,” she said.

Students at Western, like their instructors, are also divided on attendance policies and their worth to students.

Glasgow senior Theresa Britt said attendance should be up to the students, not professors or a campus-wide policy.

“I think their adults, whether they come to class or not should be their responsibility,” she said.

Rosine junior Alex Taylor disagrees. He said, by nature, college students are irresponsible.

He said Western should develop a set attendance policy.

“If you don’t stick it to them the best you can, they’ll walk all over you,” he said.

Burch said Western does not plan on implementing a campus-wide attendance policy any time in the near future. But, she said such a policy is not out of the question.

Burch said the university would be open to any discussions about a campus-wide attendance policy if faculty voiced concern to administrators.

Reach Molly O’Connor at [email protected]