Please excuse my absence – I’m sick!

Have you ever gone to class even though you were sick because you didn’t want to miss a lecture or test, or get points off your grade due to a professor’s strict attendance policy?

There have been recent instances of students coming to class with the flu and other illnesses simply to take a quiz because they were worried about the consequences of taking a sick day.

Even in the era of COVID-19, some professors still maintain a zero-tolerance attendance policy.

These professors’ expectations when it comes to attendance are putting the health of students, and even themselves, at risk. 

According to Ann McDonald, chief of staff and general counsel, professors are not required to give allowances to students who are absent due to COVID-19 or other illnesses because they have jurisdiction over their own attendance policies.

With breakthrough cases of COVID-19 happening among vaccinated people, we cannot risk public safety when students try to avoid the consequences of draconian attendance policies.

The Incoming Student Resource Manual, which is available on the FSU website, outlines the University’s current practice for excusing absences. 

It says students with documented illnesses who miss more than three days of classes might be able to excuse their absences if they contact the Dean of Students.

There should be a clearer, more concrete, and easy-to-understand set of guidelines.

We believe FSU should adopt a University-wide illness and emergency-related absence policy. 

A University-wide policy would define the documentation students need to provide for their absences to be excused, such as a doctor’s note or a positive test for a communicable disease.

Additionally, the University should require faculty to give students a fair number of excused absences. Students should not attend class if they feel ill and will not be able to focus.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved nobody is immune to illness. Attendance policies that are too rigid do not reflect the reality we live in: people can, and will, die from the spread of illnesses.

Clear written guidelines help everyone take care of their physical and mental health.

Students shouldn’t be afraid to be absent if they are sick. We need to put our health and the health of our community first.

The University should mandate faculty grant sick days to students with medical documentation during flu season and a global pandemic. 

According to the Framingham State University Health Center, clinicians do “not provide ‘sick notes’ for students to professors due to a brief absence from class due to illness.” 

The Health Center claims the lack of doctor’s notes for illnesses “is meant to foster mature communication between student and professor, as well as encourage personal responsibility for class attendance decisions.”

We believe the Health Center should provide doctor’s notes if it encourages students to stay home from class when sick.

Faculty also will need to respect this guidance from the Health Center and grant students sick days.

Following the doctor’s notes provided by the Health Center would ensure students are given an appropriate number of sick days and time to make up their work, as needed.

This complication can be solved through a clearly communicated policy.

We can’t require faculty to present their classes in a certain way, such as a hybrid modality, to accommodate students who cannot attend class in person.

However, technology can provide a good alternative for classroom instruction if a student is sick.

Students can keep up with their course syllabi and assignments and share their thoughts on Canvas discussion boards.

Students can also share notes with their peers by emailing and texting.

Students should not feel obligated to attend class when they are sick. 

It’s OK to miss class if you are sick.

When students graduate and enter the workforce, they will be granted sick days for the sole purpose of preventing them from worrying about losing pay if they wake up with a fever, cough,  or positive COVID-19 test. 

Thankfully, companies want to preserve their employees’ health and prevent sick employees from infecting their entire company. We wish the University’s administration would think the same way about our campus community.

Faculty should not have zero-tolerance attendance policies.

FSU’s administration should mandate medical exemption for students who miss class due to illnesses.

The Health Center needs to provide medical documentation for students when they are sick and need to miss class.

Faculty members who force students to come to class when they’re sick will only cause more harm than good for the entire campus community.