Instructor-initiated drop policy may cost students money and course credit
Beginning this semester, any UTSA faculty can drop students from a course for non-attendance as long as drop requirements are clearly stated in the syllabus attendance policy.
The instructor-initiated drop is an effort to curve low attendance in classes with high rates of drops, failing grades and withdrawals (DFW). According to Dr. Steven Levitt associate dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA), class attendance is positively correlated with the grade a student receives in a course, meaning the less often a student attends class they are more likely to earn a lower grade for the course. Some professors encourage attendance in their classes by making participation impact students’ grades which is a new initiative to increase the severity of the consequences for not attending class.
In the spring of 2017, 13 COLFA instructors piloted a program in which they could drop students from their courses for non-attendance. This program spanned over 22 courses with a total enrollment of 1,708 students. Currently, the program has rolled into more classes, and is set to take a larger, more detailed analysis of an instructor-initiated drop.
The pilot program for the instructor-initiated drop had a positive impact on attendance for the classes. Of the 13 original COLFA instructors, only six dropped students from their courses. According to Levitt, 196 warnings were sent out to students not attending classes. Of those warnings, only 46 students were dropped from the courses by their instructors. Respectively, 11.4 percent of students were sent warnings and 2.7 percent of students were officially dropped from their courses.
“Students have a responsibility to help UTSA maintain top-tier status by achieving and maintaining high academic standards. If students attend classes regularly as required, then the instructor drop policy should be of no impact on them,” Levitt said. “The instructor drop policy is simply another way to enforce existing policy.”
The policy Levitt refers to is the class participation policy in the Catalog Information Bulletin and Section 5.09 of the UTSA Handbook of Operating procedures. The Catalog Information Bulletin states, “Students are expected to regularly attend and participate in all meetings of courses for which they are registered.” The UTSA Handbook says, “Unless otherwise stated in the instructor’s syllabus, or unless an absence is excused in accordance with this policy, (students) should attend and participate in all scheduled class meetings.”
UTSA policy requires students to attend class as scheduled, but student reactions vary on the new enforcement.
Some students believe the policy is unfair, noting that every student has different needs and should therefore not be required to attend class.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” senior physics major Gilberto Garcia said. “On one hand, professors are given more control over who passes and who fails their course. On the other hand, students who enroll and pay for the course have less freedoms concerning their decisions to participate in a way of their choosing.”
Some students are concerned about this policy affecting non-traditional students, including students who must work or take care of their families while attending school.
“I am wary of the possible unintended side effects that this may cause,” sophomore biology major Lee Gonzalez said. “(The policy) may unfairly affect non-traditional students that have obligations outside of the classroom.”
For professors to institute this policy, it must be clearly written in their syllabi. Faculty were given notice that any professor looking to include the policy in their syllabus had to submit the written portion in which the instructor-initiated drop was mentioned to their department chairs prior to the start of Fall classes. If students are dropped by their instructors for non-attendance, students must still pay for the course; however, students can appeal to financial services and ask for the money back. If students choose to appeal, Fiscal Services require professor approval for a student refund of any kind.