Not showing up for class at Bowdoin gets you in more trouble with some professors than others. But despite the wide range of policies and practices at the College regarding attendance, students have expressed little demand in changing the policy, and the administration—citing other peer schools—has no plans to adopt a more uniform one in the near future.
According to Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, her office does not propose any sort of guidelines regarding attendance policies and gives full control to professors to decide their own policies, based on their own preferences. She noted that this is generally common practice at other colleges and universities.
"In almost no peer schools would you see an overall rule regarding attendance," she said.
Judd said that while she leaves attendance decisions up to professors, she wants whatever they decide to be made very clear to students on the first day of class.
Judd also said that students share the responsibility regarding their attendance.
"We send out a reminder at the beginning of the semester that makes it clear that when students are going to miss they should tell their professors," she said.
Students indicated that they have had many different types of attendance policies, which vary according to the professor, class size and academic discipline.
"For certain departments it has usually been like three absences [before you] have some sort of grade reduction," John Lehman '10 said.
Lehman said that in his experience, English and German classes have been the two subjects that specified how many classes can be missed.
Sean Kleier '09 felt that professors were generally more lax than the attendance policies they put forth at the beginning of the year.
"I've had professors say that [there is mandatory attendance] but if you e-mail them it's fine," he said.
First year Adam Matula said in his time at Bowdoin, he has found most that professors did not require attendance.
"I think it's probably good, I'm pretty old I think I can make that decision for myself," Matula said.
Professors—like students themselves—had different feelings about attendance.
Associate Professor of English and Chair of the English Department Elizabeth Muther felt very strongly that attendance was crucial for her classes and her department, and said that she thought that most of the professors in the English department maintain a strict policy.
"You can read a text in 1,000 different ways, so we can have a shared discussion," Muther said. "I'm counting on everyone to be there for that."
Professor of Mathematics Bill Barker, on the other hand, does not require attendance in his courses.
"I don't require attendance, in the sense that it doesn't have anything to do with grades," Barker said. "On the other hand, I think students should attend class, if the class is valuable."
Barker indicated that he does pass around a sheet for students to check-in just so that he can make sure that no student falls through the class.
Barker said he thought that it might be easier for students to attend classes in mathematics than in other areas of study, particularly compared to the humanities.
"I think with mathematics as a whole we are building on the last class so attendance seems to not be a problem," he said. "I think most students, even some of our majors, don't like reading a math book. Students in general find it easier to get the material from the class. But in the humanities and social sciences, those books aren't so bad."
Some professors have other ways of ensuring attendance. Visiting Assistant Professor Olya Gayazova said she hands out reading quizzes in four random classes during the semester that count for 25 percent of each student's grade.
While Gayazova said the quizzes were mostly to make sure students did the reading, she said that "the positive externality is that they come [to class]."
All professors who spoke with the Orient said they had good class attendance.
Muther, who is in her 16th year at the College, said she felt students were more responsible about attendance now than when she first began teaching here.
The professors also indicated that attendance rarely, if ever, comes up during departmental meetings and that most of the professors just decide for themselves what they are going to do.
"I've been here over 30 years and I can't remember talking about [attendance] in department meetings," said Barker. "I can't even remember talking to another faculty member about it."