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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Got the flu? At the UA, a doctor’s note isn’t always enough

Alex McIntyre

Empty desks fill Room 118 of the Social Sciences building on Sunday. UA professors are not required to accept a doctor’s note for an absence, though flu season can cause many to miss class.

The fall months are filled with rainy days, pumpkin spice lattes and thick coats to prepare for the cold weather. As autumn makes its entrance, however, the season of sickness soon follows.

The flu season makes its debut in October, giving students a month to brace against a wave of contagion.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, sick college students are advised against going to class, or leaving their residence, until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours. UA Campus Health also advises students to stay home when ill to avoid spreading the disease to others.

For college students at the UA, this means missing vital class time, and even lost points for an unexcused absence.

Recovery from a seasonal flu might take days, and with classes that only take place once or twice a week, that could potentially mean a student missing an entire week of class.

While retrieval of a physician’s note might seem like the answer, it is usually impractical.

“I have a class, actually, where the policy is that you are excused, but only if you have proof that you were in the hospital, so a regular doctor’s note wouldn’t count,” said Paulina Jenney, a senior studying creative writing and environmental studies. “While I do appreciate the hospital excuse, a lot of the times when you have a contagious illness, that’s not something you’re going to the hospital for.”

According to the NLM, students with the flu usually do not need to see a physician, but do require simple bed rest until well.

Without an excused absence, some students feel obligated to attend class regardless of their health in order to receive full participation credit, putting other students at risk for infection.

Alex Nguyen, a senior studying molecular and cellular biology, said there is extra stress regarding the attendance policy in her classes.

“Hearing that you might get a whole grade lower if you miss class … It’s really scary to hear something like that,” Nguyen said. “It kind of makes it more stressful, I think. When you look at your classes, you think, ‘I can’t miss anything.’”

According to the 2014-2015 UA General Catalog, class attendance policy is left much to the instructor’s discretion. Therefore, UA instructors are not required to acknowledge physicians’ notes that would excuse a student from class.

Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Advancement Beth Acree explained the reason that a change in policy is likely not a possibility in the future.

“In general, our academic departments and instructors are fairly decentralized and appreciate being able to customize certain policies to fit the needs of their class and discipline,” Acree said. “Also, I imagine that some instructors are not comfortable reviewing a student’s health information and prefer to have a policy that limits absences regardless of the reason.”

While Campus Health does suggest that students stay home when sick, the best they can do is advise. The last time instructors were required to accept medical excuses was in 2004 in response to the H1N1 pandemic.

Even though there is no specific policy in place, Terri West, administrative associate to the executive director and director for administration for Campus Health Service, said Campus Health encourages instructors to allow students to make up missed work.

“Campus Health does recommend that if a student is ill, that they have the opportunity to stay home for that illness, especially if it is a contagious illness, and that they be given the opportunity to make up whatever work,” West said.

Follow Lauren Renteria on Twitter.

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