Stretching out the sick days

College campuses nowadays have signs regarding sickness posted all over the place. Here at Oakland University we see signs that tell us to combat germs by washing and sanitizing our hands.

Places like Oakland Community College have signs that tell students not to come to school if they’re sick. Syllabi on both campuses usually tell us that our absences will not be excused without a note from a doctor. Unless you visit the emergency room, no student is going to have regular, unscheduled access to their family physician.

Even if we do produce a doctor’s note, we are still given a limited amount of “sick days”. If we exceed the given number of days, our grades are penalized. Some professors even require students to be in school for tests, regardless of excuse, because no make-up test will be offered.

My opinion is that the practice of penalizing students for being sick is wrong. I realize there are those out there who skip school or feign illness to get out of class work. I offer that these people should not remove the benefit of the doubt from the rest of us. I have been sick two separate times this semester — one was a cold, the other the flu. During these periods I was treated admirably by my professors and my peers — therefore, this is not an attack or a defense, it is a perspective.

Students and faculty members have been missing classes due to sudden, unexpected illnesses, most of which are attributed to either the common cold or the flu.

It is to be expected that with spring arriving, common illnesses will follow, but few people truly expected this season to carry with it so much sickness. With more cases appearing than an average spring, it is prudent to examine how we, as members of our university community, are affected. An apt question might be — “how do these illnesses affect our ability to think and learn?”

According to Graham Health Center, the common cold differs from the flu mainly in the severity of the symptoms.

I think it’s a safe assumption that we’ve all had one form of headache or another. When headaches strike, it’s painful to even expose your eyes to light, let alone contemplate complex math equations.

If you can accomplish academic tasks with a headache, kudos to you, you’re a trooper — most of us cannot because of how headaches impair normal brain functions.

According to the American College Health Association, fatigue can cause you to have trouble with the following: concentration, reaction times, processing information, mood and behavior and … wait for it, fighting off illnesses. That means that if you have a cold or the flu, coming into school instead of staying at home and resting is actually perpetuating the duration of your illness.

Furthermore, an impaired ability to concentrate means you are at an unfair disadvantage when compared to your healthy classmates.

So why are we still subscribing to the notion that coming to school is a good idea when we are sick? By coming in, we spread our sicknesses, prolong our misery and produce inferior work all in order to avoid absence penalties. My opinion is that this is an antiquated notion that reads “guilty until proven innocent”.

In my experience, most professors at OU are very understanding when you explain your situation, and many will forgo their rules in order to accommodate your recovery, but if this is the practice, why have the stipulations? Just to avoid potential absence abusers? The people who skip class are going to do it regardless of the penalties. All the penalties do is scare sick kids into going to school and making the situation worse.


Contact Staff Intern Mark McMillan via email at [email protected]