Brown: The university is unforgiving to sick students

Anyone who has ever had a class in Columbia 150 knows what death sounds like. The coughing, the sneezing and the weezing consistently plague the big lecture auditoriums and continue in spreading all the germs and bacteria that go hand-in-hand with coming to class when you should really be on your deathbed.

Why then, do students continue to show up to these classes? Especially when they know they’re sick? Surely they know that going to class means they’re most likely infecting other students and resigning them to the same fate? Right? Right.

Sick students do understand this, and they apologize, but it’s really not up to them whether or not they have the ability of missing class in exchange for some much needed rest. It’s in the hands of God….well, in the hands of the professor, which, in college, is the next best thing. It’s your professor’s discretion that ultimately determines your fate. And, it turns out, indirectly becomes your doctor.

As your “doctor,” your professor decides whether or not you should get better. It’s no longer up to you or your body. If your professor is understanding, he/she will make it easier on everyone and encourage you to stay home and get well again, away from the untainted healthy people.

If your professor comes to the conclusion that you simply can’t miss class, you are resigned to be one of those harbingers of death in Columbia 150. As every cough starts to feel like your last, you can feel the annoyed stares of your peers wishing you had just stayed in bed. “It’s not my fault,” you plead. “I have to get the i>clicker question” or “participation is 10% of our grade, I can’t skip!” These are all valid reasons, but should participation points come before a person’s well-being?

Obviously, participation is a huge component of any course, and teachers should encourage or enforce participation amongst the student body. But how does that apply to sick students? Should professors be obliged to accomodate unhealthy students or is it up to the students themselves to determine if missing a class is worth the attempt at getting better.

Speaking from personal experience, I have repeatedly had classes in Columbia 150 and have known the shame, embarrassment and isolation that being sick in a classroom (particularly an auditorium) brings. Not only is coughing and sneezing annoying but it is distracting to those trying to pay attention to the professor.

Sick students are officially encouraged to stay at home, but don’t be fooled, no one can afford being bedridden in college or, more specifically, their grades can’t afford it.

Just last term, I had a bacterial infection: strep throat and “possibly mono.” Did I continue going to class even though I knew it was just making my illness(es) worse? You betcha. Ultimately, I simply could not afford to lose the 5% to my final grade for missing more than two classes and resigned myself to sitting in the very back corner with a box of tissues I brought from home.

I became worse and worse for two weeks of school and spent Thanksgiving break in a NyQuil induced coma. After the break, however, I finally started to recover. Now, I’m not saying that my case proves that all sick students can be cured with bed rest. I’m just noticing the peculiar timing of my initial recovery. It might’ve had something to do with not having to walk in Eugene’s cold, wet rain while simultaneously combatting a 103 degree fever.

It’s college, everyone’s in close proximity to one another, someone is bound to get sick. This is understandable. What’s not understandable is lowering a student’s grade because he/she was too sick to attend class. Give us doctor’s notes. Give us medicine. And give us the necessary time (as determined by a qualified professional) away from school to get stronger. Columbia 150 is filled with sick people, don’t make us be one of them.

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Kiefer Brown

Kiefer Brown