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The mandatory attendance policy at Concordia

by Amanda Vitaro October 18, 2016
The mandatory attendance policy at Concordia

How the university’s policy actually improved my educational experience

I enter the dim lecture hall, eyes drooping with fatigue and boredom.

It’s the beginning of the semester, and this is my third and final class on a long Tuesday afternoon. I’m wandering the room in search of a seat, already counting down the minutes until I can leave.

A guest speaker is introduced amidst a clatter of emotionless clapping and deep resentment. I realize I’m really only here for one single, simple and superficial reason: to sign my name on that damn attendance sheet.

Welcome to Journalism 206: Introduction to Reporting, also known as the mandatory conference.

For the next hour, I will stay put and pretend I am not fantasizing about catching the next bus. The only time I will move is when I am confronted with every student’s greatest foe: the infamous attendance sheet.

Having been at Concordia for three semesters, I’m all too familiar with the terms and conditions of the university’s attendance policy. According to the university regulations listed on their website, “class participation which, in certain disciplines, may justify an attendance requirement,” implies students have to go to class to get participation grades.

Despite my pride as an ambitious university student, my academic merit is subject to the same policing and babying of a high school student.

I thought by now I wouldn’t have to justify myself when I can’t make it to class—let alone be punished for it.

I really don’t have time to listen to someone else’s success story, I think to myself. “I’m trying to create my own.”

Yet to my surprise, after attending this mandatory conference for the past few weeks, I suddenly realized how wrong I’d been about this class. When Montreal Gazette reporter Christopher Curtis spoke to our class, my world was revolutionized. He told us that we can infuse our journalism with creativity, and use our writing as an expressive tool to disseminate thought. Curtis was definitely insightful, and if it hadn’t been for the attendance sheet, I would’ve missed this inspiring lecture.    

I receive school credit for listening to the testimonies of successful people in my field. I get to learn the dos and don’ts without so much as lifting a finger. It is the most valuable hour in my entire week, and remarkably, it is also the most effortless.

Concordia often holds special events at which alumni and guest speakers are invited to share their stories. When stressed and overworked students need to sacrifice something from their schedules, most likely, they will end up skipping the extracurricular visit. Only those with spare time and flexible schedules can afford to attend these events. All students deserve an equal opportunity to receive real-life inspiration. By making the guest speaker conferences mandatory in the curriculum of every university program, this chance would be made fair.

Fortune favours the prepared mind. No matter how high your GPA, no matter how great your personality, you will always be at a disadvantage if you shelter yourself from the realities of the field you are trying to enter.

As a student who loathed the mandatory attendance policy for the past three semesters, I am happy to say that I am finally pleased to see an attendance sheet. I sign my name with pride, knowing that my presence is not just a boost to my GPA, but to my wisdom as a professional.

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