Missing Class in College

Claire Fisher

In high school, if you missed class it was the teacher’s responsibility to make sure you were able to make up the material you missed. On the other hand, missing class in college means that it’s your responsibility as an adult to deal with the consequences. But at a university like Grand Valley State University that prides itself on individual attention and small class sizes, is it reasonable for students to assume that the professor will help them and allow them to make up the work?

Because of the small-university culture at GVSU and how well we know our professors, students have a right to expect that professors will allow them to make up the work, if they have a legitimate reason to be gone.

Before coming to college, my parents told me I wouldn’t even need to go to class if I didn’t want to. As long as I could show up on test day and pass the test, they said, I would succeed in college. At GVSU though, this is definitely not the case. Most professors have attendance policies, my classes are small enough that they would notice if I were gone, and many of my classes have in-class assignments that cannot be missed.

For a lot of us, this kind of culture and individual attention is one of the reasons we chose GVSU. We didn’t want to go to a big school with a ton of lecture courses where we would just be faces in the crowd. At GVSU, we expect that our professors know our names and if we put in the effort, know us as people a little bit. With this sort of culture, it makes sense that students would expect a little leeway and a little assistance when it comes to missing class.

Of course missing class comes with consequences, and professors shouldn’t be expected to repeat the material to every student who misses a class. Students need to understand that it’s their responsibility to read the textbook, ask other students, or use other resources to make up the content. And absolutely, many students just don’t attend class and other students make up excuses so they can skip class. But if students are expected to tell their professors when they’re going to miss class and why they’re missing it, then there should be an expectation for professors to tell students what they’re missing.

If a student misses class because they’re sick, they shouldn’t be penalized for staying home to rest and get better. It’s easy to tell a professor when you’re sick, but sometimes students have to miss class for more personal reasons. If a student has a family emergency or some sort of tragedy going on in their life that causes them to miss class, it can be difficult to share that information with a professor. But if a professor has an attendance policy, students are forced to open up to their professors. Once you’ve had to share that information with a professor, students expect that their professor will accommodate their situation. And many students chose to attend GVSU so that they could have this sort of flexibility and individual attention.

While at a larger university, students are anonymous and professors don’t care if they miss class or why they missed, this isn’t the case at GVSU. Students aren’t anonymous here and we’re expected to attend every class. But the fact of the matter is that things will come up and students won’t always be able to come to class.

Because of the small-university culture at GVSU, students are expected to tell their professors why they miss class and professors need to give their students leeway and assistance in making up the work.