The idea that sick students can miss class without repercussions is a myth.
The first day of class, known by students as read the syllabus out loud day, always includes some policy perpetuating the sick day myth.
Every instructor I’ve ever had at Tech has had a policy for sick students to make up work. Usually they allow a few absences and request a note if you miss a test day.
When they put it like that it sounds completely reasonable.
Unfortunately, the reality of taking a sick day is never that simple.
Let’s say you have a stomach virus.
If it’s a lecture day, you weigh the options of either staying home or toughing it out on campus.
Most likely, you’ll decide it’s a bad idea to drag your contagious, miserable self to the lecture hall and sit there with your face in a trash can.
You’ll text a classmate and tell them to let the instructor know about the virus. Then you’ll set up camp in the bathroom for the next few days.
While you’re chugging down that bottle of Pepto-Bismol, your friend texts you back and says that the professor wants a signed excuse.
So now what? Even if by some miracle Student Health Services is actually open for once, they won’t give you an excuse note.
The most they can do, as Camille Woods’s article in last week’s paper explained, is tell Student Affairs that you’re ill. Then Student Affairs will notify your professor.
Even then it’s up to your professor whether or not your illness is good enough to qualify for an excused absence.
For the most part, instructors on campus are sympathetic. They’ll tell you to stay at home and get well soon.
So you relax safe in the knowledge that your grade is safe.
Then comes that horrible day where you ask about what you missed.
Maybe you were relatively lucky and you only missed a few lectures. If you have a friend in class who takes notes and has legible handwriting, then you’re safe.
However, the majority of you will discover that you’ve missed 10 pages of notes covering material not in the textbook. You’re now so far behind in the curriculum that you might as well accept that you’ll fail that section of the exam.
What if you miss a quiz or a test? The instructors who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a student will help you schedule a time to make up the exam you missed.
Unfortunately, a lot of instructors at Tech will give you a much more difficult version of the exam.
Why do they do this? Because you had extra time to study.
On Monday and Tuesday your classmates were cramming for Wednesday’s exam. You were sick Monday through Wednesday so you took the exam on Friday.
That’s right. Those 36 hours of agony where you sat on a bathroom floor dry heaving into a toilet were bonus study days.
Apparently, professors can grade papers and design student curriculum while they’re battling painful stomach viruses.
Why else would they assume you have the ability to make flashcards and throw up your dinner simultaneously?
It doesn’t matter if you get the sniffles or if you get an appendectomy. If you miss class because of illness, no matter what your professor’s policy, there will be penalties.
That’s why it bothers me so much when instructors complain about sick students coming to class and spreading germs.
Trust me, teachers: your students aren’t sitting there coughing and wheezing because they couldn’t tear themselves away from your 100th day of talking about yet another famous intellectual’s theory of whatever.
They’re sitting there because if they miss this class, then their grades will be in serious trouble.
I hate going to class when I’m sick.
I spend the whole class worrying about how loud blowing my nose sounds.
I don’t like knowing that I could pass my germs to the rest of the class.
But just like all the other sick students, I’m worried about my GPA.
Instructors, if you want contagious students to stay at home, then rethink your sick day policies.
And students: I’m sorry to say it, but all we can hope for is that we’ll be able to manage the consequences of getting sick during the academic year.