Many professors abhor attendance policies. There are many sound arguments against them ranging from an economic libertarianism, conscription model failures, anti-infantilism, and classroom control curbing disruptions. But I don’t care about any of this. I take attendance. It comes out of my own experience and time spent in law school where the American Bar Association requires attendance. Of course, there’s likely a bit of selection bias in the profile of law students who have a penchant to enjoy paperwork, love knowing the rules of everything, and read big, bad books for fun. My justification in requiring attendance is because business, as career area, has a quotidian component of conformity baked in to the rank-and-file professions. Besides, we are all expected to show up for work, why not show up for class? (“Adulting” as I have heard said.) Honestly, it’s mostly selfish; it’s my method of engagement of students and get to know them and make lectures fun, which I genuinely enjoy.
As I understand it, the real exasperation of most professors on attendance requirements is that of excuses for absences. Sports, illness, sleeping in (in the afternoon classes, this is always strange), snow, and death seem to top the excuse list; and all these reasons deem exception to an attendance policy. It’s the latter that spurns skeptical ire from professors with calls to produce obituaries or even death certificates for evidence. I’ve never questioned anyone on this but a recent event in my own life has caused me to look at any student giving me notice of death in their life with a new empathy.
I lost a member of my family very recently. She was one of a handful of cousins that I deem as my own; as anyone in large families knows that every other family-member has their own family-members partitioned from the larger whole. In fact, she was my God-sister (hija de mi madrina) and we grew up together since children, raised by our grandmother since our parents worked; thus, making us siblings even more so. Time passed and my Aunt’s family moved but I ended going to college with her at the University of Utah and we reconnected solidly. Life and time went on, like it does, and she got a dog, married her high school sweetheart, and had two children: happily ever after. Sadly, she had a serious health condition since birth that ultimately took her from us and her own family. I loved her very much and I’ve been heart-broken at her loss.
Connecting this back to my own teaching, I have found a new empathy for anyone dealing with loss. For myself, after hearing of my cousin’s passing, I know that I didn’t sleep well, lost my appetite, and I can’t forget the tears; I just couldn’t focus. And I’m 38-years old where the inure of progressive losses isn’t anything too new. But imagine a young student that may have not had the experience of loss in equivalency or may be more sensitive. Further, think of the loss of a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. I know that for many Mexican-Americans, families are bit more fluid; like me, my grandmother is in every one of my earliest memories, even more than my parents. A young student may not have the skills to cope with the loss. The emotions on a young mind of a student away from family and support is undeniably serious.
I know that I’m not a counselor and I am not advocating for anything more serious than kindness. I personally know how hard it can be to even breathe after a serious loss. Please extend understanding to anyone that’s lost a family member, a friend, or even a pet. Please be empathetic. For myself, I know that I will not just blithely excuse the absence but follow up with the student. Perhaps, them talking about the loss is its own plea for help, and I don’t want to miss it; especially, for a mere attendance policy.
 Marshall, K. (October 12, 2017) Why I Don’t Take Attendance, The Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Why-I-Don-t-Take-Attendance/241428
 ABA Standards 2017-2018 (2017) Standard 311(a) Academic Program and Academic Calendar https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/Standards/2017-2018ABAStandardsforApprovalofLawSchools/2017_2018_aba_standards_rules_approval_law_schools_final.authcheckdam.pdf
Kerr, E. (May 7, 2018) Professors Are Talking About Students’ Dead Grandparents Again, The Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Professors-Are-Talking-About/243353
Hirschler, C. (June 19, 2011) What if Her Grandmother Really Did Die? The Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from: https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-if-Her-Grandmother-Really/127927?cid=rclink