By Hope Bolinger | Copy Editor
It's six on a Sunday night. Stomach pains and cold sweats attack a student in her dorm room.
She hobbles to her computer and researches the number for the Upland Health & Diagnostics Center. But they're only open Monday through Friday from nine to five. Miserable and nauseated, she endures the illness for the night and calls as soon as the clock reads 9 a.m. Their next opening isn't until the following morning.
She spends a woozy day in bed and plans to drive to the Health Center the next morning. Luckily, a wing mate (who has no Tuesday morning classes) owns a car and offers a ride. The sick student books an appointment, and the doctor administers a check-up. Because she could not schedule an appointment the day before, she asks for an excused absence for the previous day as well. After some pushback, the doctor relents. The student brings the doctor's note and excused absence request form to an office in Ayres. She hands these documents to Debbie Snyder and returns to her dorm, hoping she'll be well enough the next morning to avoid going through all this again.
The above narrative combines the tedious processes students such as Abby Palmisano (senior) and Emily Russell (junior) underwent to receive excused absences due to illness. Granted, these obstacles may discourage students from faking sickness in order to skip class, but I think the procedure takes the precaution a little too far. There are three problems with this process.
First, students who do not have strength to walk to class don't want to make a trek to every corner of campus. Those without cars suffer a hike from their dorm to the health center, then to Ayres, and finally back to the comfort of their beds.Not every student can rely on friends for a ride because the Health Center's hours conflict with the classes of most students.
Palmisano said she decided to just use unexcused absences instead of going through the hassle. "If I don't feel well enough to walk to class, I won't feel well enough to walk all the way to the Health Center and all over campus," Palmisano said.
Second, the Health Center has a few barriers of its own. Due to overbooked appointments, students have no guarantee they will receive a check-up. The Health Center is only open for 40 out of 168 hours in a week, so if a student begins feeling ill at 6 p.m., they must wait 15 hours before they even get a chance to see a doctor. And, according to Russell, if students don't get an appointment, they will struggle to get an excused absence for the day.
Third, some students are uninformed about the steps for obtaining an excused absence. Unaware myself, I scrolled through several links on Taylor's website, asked friends and perused the student portal. After I emailed Trudy Owen, who previously handled excused absences, I received a reply from Debbie Snyder, who now accepts excused absence request forms (contrary to what myTAYLOR reports).
There's no easy cure for these problems. Yes, if the procedure grew more lenient, students might take advantage of it. But here are some possible prescriptions for simplifying the process.
Prescription one: The Health Center should take note of students who attempt to schedule appointments. Therefore, when those students arrive in the following days, they can receive excused absences for each sick day.
Prescription two: If the students cannot leave their beds and walk to the Health Center, a PA, Hall Director or someone else in a position of authority can affirm the sickness on the excused absence form.
Prescription three: Students need more access to information about excused absence procedures. Perhaps Hall Directors could explain the process during hall meetings.
I'm no doctor, so maybe these ideas aren't the right cure for the situation. But I do know that the current excused absence procedure is sick and needs a remedy.