By Marah Morrison
Email excuses may vary when it comes to a student being absent from class. Although pulling a Ferris Bueller may sound ideal, in the end, the choice to do so may be detrimental.
Michele Gatts, a part-time journalism professor at Youngstown State University, said the weakest excuse she has ever received via email was a student who said he was unable to come to an 11 a.m. class because he said he had to work at a campus restaurant at noon.
“He was worried he wouldn’t make it there in time,” Gatts said. “I wrote back and said it would take five minutes to walk there from class, and you could even leave five minutes early and I’d be okay with that.”
Although Gatts provided the student with leeway, he never showed up for class. She said other excuses she has received include students having car troubles or they overslept.
“I have a fairly strict attendance policy that I outline the first day,” Gatts said. “I allow six unexcused absences per semester and they lose 10 points each time they’re absent.”
Gatts said if she notices a student being absent twice, she reminds them of the policy, and she keeps in contact with them. She said it seems that the students who are frequently absent also have multiple issues as well where they are not turning in assignments or taking notes.
“I would love to know the solution for solving this dilemma,” Gatts said. “The students who are frequently absent and frequently have bad excuses do poorly in class.”
Gatts said no matter how much she tries to intervene whether through conferencing with a student, talking with them before or after class or alerting Center for Student Progress, the absence doesn’t go away.
Claudia Berlinski, an assistant professor in the department of art at YSU, said common excuses she receives from a student unable to make it to class are car issues, depression, a death in the family, they’re sick or they’re having family issues.
“I teach mostly freshman,” Berlinski said. “I think that they’re just not used to the rigorous schedule.”
Berlinski said now that students have a little more freedom with making decisions on their own, work fails to get done and missing class is common. She said once they get past this and realize missing days is missing work time, it kind of resolves itself.
Fred Owens, a communication professor at YSU, said excuses have changed over the years, especially with social media. He said before social media, it seemed people took the initiative, if they were going to miss a commitment, to somehow communicate with whoever was involved that it was going to happen.
“They would try to use a good-faith reason,” Owens said. “They would say ‘well, my brother’s in jail and I’m down here dealing with the police,’ or ‘one of my parents is in the hospital and I’m in the emergency room, so I’m sorry.’”
Owens said unless it was an excuse of that kind, the student would not miss class. However, as time moved forward, he said excuses started to get a little bit more losey-goosey.
“More recently, I’ve had ‘I’ve gone hunting, so I can’t come in,’” Owens said. “‘I just found out I’m pregnant,’ ‘I just found out my girlfriend is pregnant,’ ‘I’m in jail,’ ‘I’m in the emergency room,’ ‘my garage fell on my car,’ ‘my cat got out and I have to go find her.’”
Owens said some of the excuses he has received are so bizarre they can’t be made up. He said nobody would make up something like “my garage fell on my car.”
“If they did, they deserve bonus credit for creativity,” Owens said. “In the last few years, I’m finding that people don’t come to class and if I ask, they’ll kind of give me an attitude.”
Owens said he yearns for the good old days when he could at least get an interesting explanation, but now, there tends to be no explanation as far as excuses go. He said the faculty he knows are trying to help students succeed, and they are not looking for ways to trip students up.
“Storytelling can be fun, but don’t lie,” Owens said.