The Ethics of Cutting Class

Karl Wetaufer, a graduate student in earth sciences, and Ashley Arcel, a senior in English, enjoy the weather…they were not, however, actually skipping class.

As summer fades away, so do most of our beginning-of-the-school-year resolutions: Eat less candy, call parents every week, exercise every day — and most importantly — don’t skip class. Yet, when the first leaves turn yellow, most of us realize we need sweets, can’t stand talking to our parents and think having a hot bod is overrated. And, inevitably, we convince ourselves that the classes we are taking do have room for ‘attendance flexibility.’

If you have a conscience, you have probably put some work into exploring justifications for ditching out on your CORE class — or your senior seminar. Here are some arguments you might use, and why they don’t hold up to close inspection.

Econ 101 Student
Let’s begin with the cheapskate response — economic cost-benefit analysis. No offense meant to utility-based theories in general, but the classic economic excuse looks something like this: “It is my time, and I honestly think I will gain more utility by skipping Biology, so I will.” Like many an Econ 101 argument, this seriously fails to account for the cost-side of the trusty utility equation. An easy reminder? Tuition. Is sitting on your couch and watching the latest episode of “The Office” really worth the $50 price tag that accompanies the average hour of class? You might argue tuition is a sunk cost, so class-by-class analysis isn’t necessary. But try explaining that to whomever subsidizes your education — parents and taxpayers alike — and you will soon find yourself having to sink those costs all on your own.

Honors Student
The next excuse comes from students that “really do care about school.” These students, who got held up by the dorm-scheduled mixers, “just didn’t have time” to do the reading for their class. And who wants to show up unprepared to contribute to class discussion? Well-intentioned though the civic virtue excuse may be, if you duck out after not doing homework because you think it is the right thing to do you will soon find yourself on a slippery slope of permanent un-preparedness.

Philosophy 101 Student
Finally, you may come to the last resort: metaphysical uncertainty. “Can I really be skipping class if class is just a construct of my mind?” Or “Personal ethics are relative. I am justified in doing what I want because I am the only instantiation of me.” You may have read one excerpt of Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, but I promise that you do not have a strong enough grasp of metaphysical theory to use it as a justification for skipping school. If you are diving into existentialism in order to rationalize sleeping in, I recommend you either seek counseling or feed your beast and consider switching to the philosophy program.

Perhaps the only reasonable excuse for missing a class impromptu is pragmatic necessity. Though I blasted pragmatism in my last article, there is good reason to know when you need to take a mental — or physical — health day to recalibrate. Sometimes we, as humans, simply aren’t functioning. Indulge every once in a while. But if you use this as an excuse too often, pragmatic necessity will dictate that you aren’t fit to be at an institution of higher education.

  • Karl Wetlaufer

    Speaking of ethics… Quick note on the photo caption: We were definitely not skipping class, which was explicitly stated to the photographer at which point we were guaranteed that the caption would state as such if it were to be published. It is definitely not the ideal fabrication about our academic ethics to be spread to the world. Thanks.