Across Bethel’s campus, new posters have appeared that inform students they have paid $72 for each 50-minute class and $108 for each 80-minute class. The posters use these facts to encourage students to avoid skipping classes. This encouragement is a good reminder and can be helpful in giving tired students that little extra bit of motivation they need to maintain their attendance.
However, it is also important to remember that, although this may be what the numbers boil down to, what students are truly paying for is an education. While class instruction is certainly a key piece of this, students will sometimes face unavoidable conflicts or difficult mental health days that necessitate skipping classes. If a student has just received devastating news or is facing a challenging mental obstacle, they are unlikely to gain anything from class attendance beyond experiencing further emotional drainage.
Additionally, how are students supposed to react when class is canceled by the professor? Although some professors will provide an assignment to do or a short video to watch to attempt to replace the 50 or 80 minutes of instruction that have been lost, some do not. As with students, these cancellations are sometimes unavoidable, but one would think that Bethel would have plans in place to accommodate this. After all, students in kindergarten through twelfth grade are well-used to substitute teachers. Why should college be any different?
There are several ways Bethel could consider implementing backup plans to avoid jipping students of beneficial class time. Professors could be required to compile a short list of available videos that are relevant and educational concerning class material and that someone could easily be asked to go in and play for students. Many professors have teaching assistants that could be asked to either teach a class or at least facilitate a class discussion. And considering the amount that the students are paying to be in that class, it seems reasonable that, in those cases when a professor can give advance warning but is unable to provide a substitute themselves, the university should be able to bring in a relevant guest speaker.
Furthermore, I have experienced two classes in which, due to drastic events beyond the control of the professors, more classes were canceled than I would have been allowed to personally choose to skip without academic consequences. This seems especially unfair to students and unjust of the institution to not step in and assist in ensuring that we receive the education we are paying for.
In conclusion, while I agree wholeheartedly that students should attend every class they are able to, I also encourage students to take the time they need to prioritize their mental health, and I admonish the university to reconsider whatever policy it may or may not currently have for when professors must cancel their classes.
Brianna R. Densmore