October 9, 2006
There has been extended commentary over at PrawfsBlawg on the subject of "disciplining the lazy student." I think Paul Horwitz's post hits the mark. I like to have participation, and followed the lead of colleagues here at Tulane who use a "panel" system similar to the one Paul describes. The only point, in my mind, is to have somebody prepared for a discussion, and to allocate that preparedness in a fair way.
In my classes, there's a penalty for absence or unpreparedness, but it's a low threshold to avoid it. You have to want to get marked down to get marked down. There are instances, however, where a student, due to exigencies, has been missing when I look down at the seating chart and up at the seat. In every case, I learn later that the reason for the absence has been understandable and, indeed, excusable. But I make the point each time that there is a life lesson here. These exigencies will come up in practice, and even if you have a personal emergency, there may be judges, clients, partners, or others waiting for you, and you need to deal with that as well by the courtesy of a phone call or e-mail to explain what happened.
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