Dear Professors and TA’s, Your Attendance Requirements are Ableist

Being a student in college is hard enough with the high exposure to sickness, having a mental illness, and/or having a chronic illness, but it’s even harder when TA’s and professors have requirements to get doctor’s notes and make class mandatory. These requirements make students come to class sick, feel guilty about missing and are overall impractical.

What some professors and TA’s forget is that some students may not have access to cheap healthcare or insurance, preventing them from getting the doctor’s note that is sacred to so many faculty members. Students who are already on a tight budget (because college is expensive, as we all know) don’t have the money to spend on doctor’s visits every time they need a doctor’s note. It’s also hard to obtain a doctor’s note because sometimes students are too sick to make a trip to the doctor or know that it’s just a common cold, which doesn’t require a trip to the doctor. Growing up, I never went to the doctor if I had a simple cough or stuffy nose because nothing the doctor says would be any different than “rest, drink water, and take Mucinex (or any over the counter medicine).” It’s also very unsafe for those sick students to come to class out of guilt for missing because they could spread what they have to the rest of the class, which has the opposite effect that professors want: more sick and absent students.

people sitting in chairs and taking notes

So many students also experience mental illness, which has symptoms so bad sometimes that the person can’t leave bed let alone focus in class. From experience, going to class while having a panic attack or mid-depressive episode diminishes the quality of learning, in fact, I don’t retain anything I learned because all I can focus on is how bad I’m feeling. This applies to many other students who sometimes need a mental health day to recover from feeling like absolute sh*t. For most professors and TA’s, mental health days aren’t on the list of excused absences like it should be. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

Chronic illnesses are also common on campus and most of the time they keep students from going to class on a regular basis. Several students last semester had immune system issues and had to take a gap semester because they couldn’t afford to miss class as frequently as they were. While some professors and TA’s make accommodations for students with chronic illness, not all of them do. Or if they do make those accommodations, they are the bare minimum and don’t do enough to ensure that those students are still succeeding. There are some classes where attendance doesn't affect the student’s grade, but all classes should follow that model. Having mandatory attendance has diminished student success (this includes health, mental health and grades) and doesn’t benefit them the way professors and TA’s think.

Instead of making the goal to have a full classroom, the goal should be to ensure that every student has access to success in the class whether they can make it that day or not.

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