Walter Casey

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FAQ Tardies (and Leaving Early)

Q. So what about coming to class late? Why is that a big deal?

A. In addition to the reasons for regular attendance discussed above, punctuality is a courtesy to your instructor and your fellow students. Late students are an interruption and a distraction, and, like any other interruption or distraction, they will be dealt with seriously.

Q. Why should we even have an Tardy policy? This isn't high school; this is college, and I should be treated like an adult.

A. As a matter of legal and biological fact you probably are an adult. Treating someone like an adult includes holding her responsible for her actions and expecting that she will make her decisions based on rational evaluations of her goals, needs, capacities, and circumstances. Regular, punctual attendance is a requirement in this course, and you will be held responsible, not your parents or legal guardians, should you fail to meet that requirement.

Taking up the high school vs. college distinction, the specific and implied responsibilities of the college student far exceed those of the high school student, so should it come as a surprise that the consequences for failing to meet those responsibilities will be as or more severe than those for the high school student?

Finally, this class, this department, and this university have these policies because it is our reasoned, researched, and tested opinion that university-level subject matter is best learned in regular, frequent contact with a trained professional in the field. Opinions do vary, as can be seen in the British university system, but for the time being, I would advise you to attend class regularly and promptly.

Q. Have you ever tried having a lax policy? You might be surprised at the results.

A. I have, and I was. I took several courses from a philosophy professor who had no attendance or tardy policy whatsoever and I will admit that I missed more class meetings than is my custom, but I decided to try it myself. The result was that about a third of the students attended classes regularly and got good marks and bad attitudes toward their fellow classmates. About a third attended irregularly, got mediocre marks, and felt somewhat excluded from class discussions because they felt they were always behind. About a third attended rarely, got dismal marks, and spent the last three weeks in a blind panic trying to salvage their semester grade. Finally, my attitude toward the class deteriorated badly. I am simply not evolved enough as a human being to teach the students who come and have faith that the rest will find their own way somehow. All in all, the experiments were deeply unsatisfying and will not be repeated.

Q. But what if I'm smart enough to learn this without you?

A. CLEP out. It saves time, money, and stress. The door is over there.

Q. Okay, okay, so you're going to have a Tardy policy. Fine. Be a fascist. Are you actually going to lower my course grade if I am tardy consistently? I've heard that you won't.

A. You've heard wrong. I rigidly enforce this policy, including failing students for non-attendance.

Q. Why the change of heart?

A. Chalk it up to Ockham's Razor. If a student is always late, and misses too much of too many classes, I can eventually him/her. If I fail 'em, I don't have to hear excuses, grade make-up work or deal with their fellow students' surly resentment of him because they were here doing the work and he wasn't.

Q. Ockham's what?

A. Look it up.