Photo By: Isabella and Zsa Fischer from Unsplash
If you’re a regular reader of The Brock Press’ opinion section (hi mom), you should know by now that a solid third of my opinion pieces are just me complaining about the things that have annoyed me personally over the course of a given week.
This week, I had bronchitis, and while that in and of itself is annoying, I encountered a whole other slew of annoyances in trying to get some of my absences excused while I was sick.
See, the general policy of most instructors here at Brock is that to excuse an absence for a medical reason, a doctor’s note is required. Which makes next to no sense to me. I’m sick, I know I’m sick, you know I’m sick, why do we need a doctor to verify this visible fact?
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, I personally would like to avoid doctors’ offices as much as possible. Believe it or not, I don’t go to the doctor every time I’m sick. A common cold is enough to make me need to stay home and rest, but it’s not enough to warrant a trip to urgent care. For me, getting bronchitis is as regular an occurrence as getting the common cold, so unless something is going seriously wrong, I generally try to take as much cough syrup as I’m legally allowed to and wait it out.
Having to go to the doctor’s office is not only a pretty big inconvenience but we’re also all adults here. If I’m lying about being sick, what skin is it off my professors’ back? If someone needs an extension or to be absent from class so badly that they’re willing to fake an illness, there’s probably something else going on there and the kind thing to do is just take them at their word.
Now, this might seem like an overreaction, after all, many jobs also require employees to provide doctor’s notes when taking time off due to illness. To that though, I’d argue that the same compassion and understanding should be extended in a professional setting as well.
Policies that punish students for being absent too often fail to take into account the very real fact that not every university student has the exact same level of health. Some students have disabilities, chronic illnesses and pain, weakened immune systems, and some might just be particularly accident and injury prone. Whatever the reason, attendance and late policies like these punish students for something that is largely out of their control.
Additionally, these kinds of policies, whether intentional or not, encourage people to show up to work and to school when they’re sick. Sure, you’re not supposed to go to school if you have COVID-19 symptoms, but a cold? As long as you’ve tested negative for COVID-19, the expectation is that you’re either in class or getting a doctors’ note.
When you’re sick, you should be able to focus on getting better. Instead, these policies give students one more thing to worry and be stressed about.
The compassionate thing to do when someone tells you that they’re sick and need some kind of accommodation is to take them at their word. If they’re telling the truth then you’ve done the compassionate thing. If they’re lying, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Someone’s going to miss a class without being deducted marks? They’ll have a few extra days to work on a paper? It seems like a fair trade to live with the possibility that someone might take advantage of compassion and understanding than to deny them it.