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Busy schedules, boring lectures drive students to skip classes

Free curriculum, academic ambitions ensure half of students cut less than once a month

About one fourth of the student body skips class at least once a week, according to a Herald poll conducted March 3-4.

Roughly 14 percent of respondents reported that they skip class once a week, 11 percent skip more than once a week and 1 percent skip class every day. But around 15 percent of students have never skipped class, with 34 percent skipping class less than once a month and 26 percent skipping class once or twice a month.

Campus was divided in reactions to the poll results, with students variously anticipating both higher and lower numbers of students skipping class regularly. Others indicated they thought the results aligned with their expectations.

“It’s a privilege to attend classes taught by skilled professors,” said Christopher Dennis, deputy dean of the College, adding that with the freedom the open curriculum provides for both coursework and grade options, Brown students should have less reason to skip class.

Justin Juan ’16 said he finds it implausible that one third of the student body skips class less than once a month, adding that he thought students attend less frequently.

But Preston Law ’17 said he was surprised that such a large portion of students skip class once a week or more.

“Why would you cut at Brown? There are no limits on choice,” said Kathleen McSharry, associate dean of the College for writing and curriculum.

Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services and interim dean of the College, said the poll showed more students regularly skipping class than she had expected.

According to Klawunn, one motivation behind skipping class may be that students do not find some classes stimulating enough.

Anderson said students skip class because they believe they would benefit more from employing their time in different ways, such as learning the course material on their own.

Kevin Yan ’17 expressed similar sentiments, saying he might skip class if he already knew the material being taught.

Klawunn said the University maintains the expectation that students attend class, and holds them accountable for keeping up with course material, even during shopping period. But University policy leaves the job of monitoring class attendance and weighting attendance and participation to the discretion of individual professors, she added.

Many students said they try to attend all classes in order to keep up with coursework, and most students said they avoid skipping smaller classes that take attendance.

Neha Verma ’16 said she consistently attends class “not because I’m a goody-goody,” but because she does not want to have to catch up with missed material outside of class.

Attending class is necessary to keep up with the course material, Law said, adding that he never misses class.

But the reasons for attending classes go beyond participation grades and the maintaining good relations with professors.

The learning environment at Brown depends on each student contributing to the learning environment, McSharry said. In failing to attend class, students are “not fully fulfilling their responsibility to their peers,” she added.

“I wouldn’t skip because I came to Brown for the academic experience,” Verma said.

The University combats this problem by seeking a pedagogy that ensures that class time is put to good use, including promoting new experimental courses that use class time for collaboration on problem sets rather than lectures, Klawunn said. One section of ECON 1110: “Intermediate Microeconomics” was taught using this flipped classroom model last semester with positive feedback from students, The Herald previously reported.

According to the poll, underclassmen were more likely to have never skipped a class than upperclassmen. About 21 percent of first-years and 19 percent of sophomores reported never having skipped class, while 8 percent of juniors and 10 percent of seniors chose that option.

“The sun still shines tomorrow if you don’t go to class today,” said Saudi Garcia ’14. Some things can take precedence over spending time in class, she said, adding that she skipped an entire day of class to write her senior thesis.

But Garcia said class is often more important than other extracurricular commitments. "We're students first."

Though Yan does not skip class often, he said he now feels more comfortable missing a day in his second semester at Brown than he did when he first arrived.

Megan Marshall ’15 said she skips class less often as an upperclassmen due to the increasing difficulty of her coursework, but she agrees that upperclassmen are more at ease missing class than underclassmen.

But because students beyond their first semesters are more able to choose classes they fing truly engaging, Verma said she skips class less in her second year at Brown. Upperclassmen who have had more time as college students know how to choose better classes, take advantage of the open curriculum and understand which types of courses suit their learning styles, she said.

One of the reasons students cut class could be that they are overcommitted to extracurricular activities, McSharry said, adding that when students fail to limit their commitments, they jeopardize their health, extracurriculars and academic performance.

Verma said her extracurricular activities sometimes take precedence over academic priorities.

And Yan said that when he struggles to balance his extracurricular commitments with his classes, he ends up sacrificing sleep.


A previous version of this article failed to provide context for Saudi Garcia's '14 comments. Though she said skipping class can be acceptable under certain circumstances, she also emphasized the importance of attending class most of the time.


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