Skipping class: The good, the bad and the policy — By Jen Gibb

Empty chair“Skipping class,” as commonly called, is a favorite activity for many students at The Master’s College. They do this sometimes for invalid reasons, maybe for a beach trip or just to sleep in. Another invalid reason, although justified by some, is to finish more urgent work that is due in another class. Other reasons for skipping would be a concert with the music department or a game with the athletic department. These, along with family emergencies and serious illnesses fall under another category entitled “excused absences.”

According to The Master’s College Academic Catalogue 2014-2015, faculty are required to give students five excused absences for three-session/week classes, four for 2-session/week classes, and 2 for one-session/week classes. Unexcused absences, also known as “skips” aren’t even mentioned. Some teachers go the extra mile and extend their grace. Professor Bob Dickson of the Communication Department allows for five excused or unexcused absences in Science Fiction Writing. Dr. Daniel Wong in Christian Theology I doesn’t have any attendance at all, but other teachers live by the book.

“My understanding is that we have a standard absence policy and it is as you would find it in my syllabus,” says Dr. Lisa LaGeorge, who teaches the Global Outreach course for students going on summer missions trips.

She continued to give her opinion on class attendance. “No class is a throwaway class,” she says. “For a student to miss that class it’s almost impossible to make up what you’ve missed, whether it be because of the content that is introduced during the class or the interaction between the professor and the other students in the class. The more that you’re gone, the harder it is for a professor to be able to assess whether or not you’ve gotten the content in the class.”

And yet, excused absences are still necessary. Dr. Paul Plew explains this, speaking from the perspective of both a classroom professor and a director of The Master’s Chorale and Collegiate Singers, both extra-curricular groups.

“It’s all part of the educational process,” he says. “[Extra-curricular activities] are also why they’re here.”

This view is not just unique to Plew. The Master’s College charges a Student Activity Fee of $210 if a student is taking six or more units to cover the cost of any activities they might be involved in. They expect students to be involved, and although most activities do not interfere with the classroom schedule, some, athletic and musical events especially, can fall at a bad time. However, there is still a way to make it work.

Dr. John Stead, TMC Vice President of Academic Affairs says, “If you come to [most faculty] prior to the event and say, ‘I’m going over here and I’m representing the college,’ and you have a quiz on Friday, most faculty would say, ‘Okay, but you need to take the quiz before you go.’ I’d say that’s pretty much the standard.”

In a perfect world, this standard would solve all of the problems. But if a student is involved in multiple groups, such as Chorale, Collegiate, and the theatre program, he may find himself skipping multiple sessions of the same night class. And since only two excused absences are allowed for a night class, the student may find himself crossing the limit without even being sick.

When asked about this issue, Stead says, “That is really tough. If you plan ahead, if you’re in this activity on a regular basis, just make sure that when you do your schedule, you do not schedule [that night class]. Basketball players do not schedule night classes on a Tuesday because they play every single Tuesday.”

Some teachers put a lot of time into note packets that explain all of their material, and a student could, if they were allowed to, probably just study the note packet and do fine on the tests. But a college education isn’t just about passing the exam. As mentioned by LaGeorge earlier, the education is also about interaction with the professor. Many students even change their majors due to professors in one department or another.

After paying $15,250 for tuition at The Master’s College, a student might think twice about spending that money on other activities during class time.

“You came to go to class, so go to class,” LaGeorge says.

A life that combines both class time and extra-curricular events is possible, but it requires serious planning.

“Your advisor should really help you work through that ahead of time,” Stead suggests.

Unfortunately, some students don’t know what activities they will be involved in when they sign up for classes. The semester will wear on and a student may realize that he can’t keep with a class’s attendance policy and still respect his extra-curricular commitments.

“At that point, you’re at the mercy of your faculty member,” Stead says.

For some students, this is just a case of bad planning where they didn’t let their professors know their commitments ahead of time. That situation is not the professor’s fault, but it is entirely on the student, especially if their extra-curricular activities made the dates clear right at the beginning of the semester.

“You’re going to have to make a choice,” Plew says.

By Jen Gibb

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