Opinion | The truth about being absent 

Mallory Hatchett, Contributing Columnist

An October 2022 report by the American Psychological Association found that 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem. In Alabama, this study found that there was an increase in thoughts of suicide and serious mental illness in both 2008-2010 and 2017-2019 in ages 18-25. With massive amounts of college students facing mental health struggles, you might assume that professors would be understanding of the daily challenges college students deal with. 

Yet, sitting in class, many of us are told that missing only a few classes will drop us a letter grade, or at the very least affect our final grade in the class. Some classes even limit the number of excused absences you can have. Other classes give more leniency, but I argue for both excused and unexcused not to hold as much weight. 

As syllabus week has come and gone, we all heard the usual introductions. Professors lay out the schedule for the semester, consisting of a variety of assignments and tests. They lecture us on attendance and how important it is.  

While I am not here to argue that classroom attendance isn’t an important aspect of a class, I aim to give a different perspective on mandatory attendance. I argue that professors aren’t doing enough to consider the time and mental effort that college life takes.

I urge teachers and administrators to look past wanting a full classroom and into student’s lives and the hardships students are facing. 

The same October 2022 report from the APA noted that college counseling centers across the country saw a 40% increase in student appointments from 2009-2015. An April 2022 survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed found that the top four stressors that college students face are all related to money, college and work. 

It is not a reach to suggest that college campuses are facing mental health crises.

Some professors are requiring students who already are facing a lot on their plate to come to class each day, and if a person misses more classes than allowed, that person is required to submit an excuse of why they had to miss class. 

For college students facing mental health problems, just getting out of bed can be a difficult task. Forcing them to go to the doctor, get diagnosed, acquire all the necessary paperwork and submit that paperwork is a bit outrageous. 

These types of attendance requirements can negatively impact less fortunate students, like students with full-time jobs, those who are supporting themselves financially, or students with disabilities.

Many attendance requirements work for average college students, such as students who have parents who are funding their education and have little to none health issues. 

Even for students who don’t necessarily have mental health or physical health struggles, students should be allowed more leniency regarding absences. Our grade shouldn’t depend on whether we are able to make it to every single class. Students are human beings; we deserve the freedom to make decisions on our own and what is best for us. 

Furthermore, it doesn’t mean students don’t care about their courses if they miss class. While that may be some student’s reasoning, most of the time people have a lot more going on than that — life is complicated. 

Professors are given the power to miss class if they have something come up. They aren’t forced to tell students why or give any reason why they weren’t in class. While some teachers will tell you, other teachers don’t. While I respect this level of privacy, it is not given to students who deserve the same treatment. 

I urge teachers and administrators to work more directly with students on issues involving absences. Students are not asking for handouts or the easy way out. Given the proper opportunities, students will come through.