College is not high school. Every introductory class made sure to tell this to me. I was taught to spend three hours outside of class for every credit hour of class. Professors would expect me to put in extra effort to stand out. As a college student, I am, on some level, an adult who can manage his time, prioritize and work towards excellence.
And yet, I find professors treating me and fellow students as though we are back in high school, or even middle school. Back in high school, it didn’t matter when you finished your test or when a teacher finished giving a lesson. We were considered too immature and hormonal to control ourselves inside the classroom; there was no way teachers would let us out to wander the halls. The schedules were organized so that no one could leave class early. You could ditch. But once you set foot in the class you were staying until the end of the class no matter what.
This should not be the case in college. We have other classes, internships, part-time jobs and extracurriculars. If a professor finishes the day’s lecture, students should be allowed to leave the class. If students finish in-class tests early, they should be allowed to leave class. If there is a three-hour lab that students are able to finish in two hours, they should be allowed to walk out of the class without fear of losing points. Everything has been completed. If I can still get all of my work done for class, I should not be subject to losing a full letter grade for every two unexcused absences as many classes declare in their syllabi.
Of course, if a professor finds that class after class, they finish lessons early for whatever reason, they should change their plan to make full use of class time. It might be time to add complexity or totally restructure. I don’t mean finishing with five minutes left, but with a third or more of scheduled class time still extant.
During my gap year in Israel, one of my rabbis stood in front of the class and wrote out the tuition we had all paid to attend. He then divided it by the months we would be in yeshiva, the number of days of class per week and the number of hours we had class every day. He told us that we would incur no penalties for missing classes, but for every failure to attend we were, in essence, giving away money for nothing in return.
College is the same. I am paying approximately $207 for every credit hour of class. If I decide to miss one hour of a three-credit class, I forfeit $17.25. If I decide to miss an hour and a half it totals to $25.88. A three-hour class costs me $51.57. These are choices that I can make. If a real lesson has been given over by a professor in the less-than-scheduled time, I should be allowed to accept my losses and go on to do other work or socialize as I see fit.
Some classes inherently require attendance. It is impossible to learn from a discussion-based class or lab class without attending. But for many classes, while it might be more difficult, it is possible to excel without attending a number of times. Opinions writers have previously written about Stony Brook’s absence policy. When Fast Company offered unlimited vacation, employees took around the same number of days off. I want this policy not because I want to stop attending classes entirely. I want this policy because I have calculated if I could afford ditching one class to work on another class.
As this semester comes to a close I ask professors: Can you please trust me to be mature about your class and others? Can you manage class time the way you expect me to? Can you treat me as a college student?