I have a 60 hour work-week due to work/school/commuting/homework, so I've had to make sacrifices -- usually this is attendance of mindless gen-ed classes. I'm worried that the university may revoke my degree if this comes to light.

Described in the answers to this question, a university can revoke a degree if it is found that the student broke the code of conduct during the course of the program. My university's code of conduct specifies that it is up to the instructor to determine attendance policies, and AFAIK none of the classes I have skipped had clauses that resulted in a failure of the class due to poor attendance (just grade penalties). Despite this, would it be unprecedented for the university to claim I was in violation of an attendance policy anyway and revoke my degree? I'm worried the school may see this as an insult and retaliate.

If it matters which classes and how severe, I skipped 50% of Physics II and only attended 4 days of Calc II (test days). I plan to do the same with Chem I this semester. I was not at risk of failing the courses. I am pursuing a bachelors degree of Computer Science at a US university. I have never broken any laws or cheated. I am in good academic standing and on-track to graduate at the end of the semester.

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    Some (government) funding in some countries is linked to attendance as well as grades / performance - once a threshhold is passed then a visa can be revoked which means effectively out of the course... – Solar Mike Sep 14 at 4:32
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    @KonradRudolph non-major classes, and mindless in the sense that I can show up 4 days of the semester and not flunk out of the course :P – Drew Sep 14 at 9:56
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    @Drew Just to clarify: are you saying you’d not learn anything useful even if you attended? Or that you can wiggle your way through the exams despite not attending because the exams are lax? Because that impacts the answer: the minors I took formed an integral part of my education, I’d regret to have missed them (extenuating circumstances notwithstanding). – Konrad Rudolph Sep 14 at 9:59
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    @KonradRudolph Would rather not start a political discussion over what's valuable and what's not -- off-topic form original question anyway. – Drew Sep 14 at 10:09
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    @KonradRudolph pretty sure "gen-ed" stands for "general education", the kind of non-major course that universities make students take for breadth requirements. – Allure Sep 14 at 12:52
up vote 44 down vote accepted

It is part of the cultural norms of American universities that your attendance or lack thereof is an issue for each individual course instructor to pursue or not pursue as they choose. At my university the administration is involved precisely insofar as to have the following policy:

Students are expected to attend classes regularly. A student who incurs an excessive number of absences may be withdrawn from a class at the discretion of a professor.

This states the situation well: the administration empowers the instructor to penalize the student for poor attendance, including withdrawing them from the course. Thus whether and how your lack of attendance in a course is problematic is between you and the instructor of that course. You seem to be worried about attendance that is acceptable to the instructor -- more precisely, not resulting in failure or withdrawal -- but is somehow unacceptable to the university as a whole, since you write

Despite this, would it be unprecedented for the university to claim I was in violation of an attendance policy anyway and revoke my degree? I'm worried the school may see this as an insult and retaliate.

In a word: yes, this would be completely unprecedented and moreover implausible. First of all, how does the university even know about your attendance? Even if they somehow found out (maybe you write an editorial in your school paper advocating attending class as little as possible?!?) it would widely be viewed as a violation of the instructor's rights to penalize you for lack of attendance when the instructor did not. Finally, you speak of a degree being revoked which means that first you get it and then they take it away from you. Degrees are only revoked for the grossest forms of academic misconduct. It would be outrageous for a university to revoke a degree due to lack of attendance -- frankly, that would reflect very badly on them and would invite censure and possibly even legal action, as it seems manifestly unfair to conjure requirements retroactively.

Summing up: you should clear your attendance plans with each course instructor in advance. To do otherwise is really not safe, as you can see that e.g. my university (which is not so far away from yours) empowers me to withdraw a student for sufficiently poor attendance. If your attendance plan is okay with the instructor, it will be okay with everyone else too.

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    Completely correct answer. For what it's worth, my (U.S.) university's policy regarding attendance is virtually identical to the one you've stated here. – reirab Sep 14 at 19:07
  • At University I had many lecturers (UK) who were useless at lecturing and I was useless at mornings, but they wrote wonderful lecture notes, books, and practicals (and were mainly there because they were leaders in the field, but often had limited social skills, lovely as they were). I didn't attend those classes regularly and probably they liked the low attendance, too. Teaching is teaching, more power to them. It's important to stay in touch somehow, though, as there may be requirements for practicals, etc, you only hear about in lecturers, so you need friends to help you out occasionally. – Dannie Sep 14 at 22:15
  • Early in my undergrad education, I had a Differential Equations lecturer who had terrible English skills (nor did I speak his native language). The lectures were an absolute waste. But out of respect, I attended class and spent the time teaching myself (referencing the textbook, taking notes, and effectively learning DE solo). It was the closest I could get to gaining anything from the lectures. In retrospect, I should have attended the lectures, and feigned paying attention, then taught myself after class. – ChuckCottrill Sep 15 at 21:10

Assuming you haven't been awarded a degree yet, you can't have your degree revoked.

As for whether the university can refuse to award you a degree because you didn't attend class - key point to note is that university isn't high school. University students are generally treated as adults, and adults are free to do what they want, including miss class. It comes down to whether you can meet the stated requirements for the course even if you miss class. If you can, then sure, go ahead. Missing class isn't the same as the situation in the question you linked - that involves cheating by not actually meeting the requirements, but giving the impression that you did.

Caveats: by not attending class,

  • Your lecturers can't write you recommendation letters since they have no impression of you.
  • You miss anything that's said in class, e.g. the lecturer might mention an interesting fact that's never examined for, but would've helped you five years in the future.
  • Some lecturers might have attendance requirements.
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    +1 Just to emphasize the key point -- you cannot lose your degree for violating a policy that doesn't exist. – cag51 Sep 14 at 5:25
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    @zibadawatimmy I use that phrase to mean that the university treats the students as people who are capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for it, so e.g. if you miss class and fail, they're not going to let you take the next class on the way to the degree since you failed the prerequisite. But if you can miss class and still pass, more power to you. – Allure Sep 14 at 6:29
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    @zibadawatimmy The comparision is unfair, as the "treat as adult" part means, that the university often declares the attendance as completely optional, relying on you to judge if you need to be there or not. Being not there and investing time in reading more books is a completedly viable option. A good reason may be a schedule, which makes it hard to be at the university, but allows for enough time to read about the topic. As an adult you should know, that you probably will need some of the lectures. On the other hand you should know, that you do not need 100%. – allo Sep 14 at 8:13
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    This answer misses an important subtlety: Some university instructors do impose attendance requirements on their courses, either explicitly or implicitly through the including of "participation credit" or in-class quizzes and the like. Thus, it is entirely possible for a student to fail a class, despite meeting all other course requirements, because they did not attend class, or even because they missed more than a trivial number of classes. And if that class is a degree requirement, the student won't get the degree. – JeffE Sep 14 at 18:14
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    @Allure That doesn't mean it doesn't happen. My friend TAs a class where 4 absences is an automatic fail. It causes him no end of headaches. – Azor Ahai Sep 14 at 22:44

FWIW, at all the service academies, attendance is mandatory.

For your specific college, if a professor makes it mandatory to attend and you don't than he can flunk you. If you need the class, than no degree.

You might like it, but that is likely how it would play out.

protected by Alexandros Sep 15 at 18:08

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