It Is Okay to Get Down With the Sickness

Busy students often have to ration sick days (Photo: Courtesy of

Imagine that one day, you wake up a little after your last alarm, feeling just terrible. Your throat feels ragged, you’re coughing up gobbets of phlegm, and you’ve got the mother of all headaches. So, the right answer is obviously to take a sick day.

Rest, get some medicine and inform your professors that you can’t make it. Or so you’d think. But it’s not always that simple.

Last semester, I took a statewide final after spending most of the day throwing up from food poisoning. My reasoning was three-fold. First off, rescheduling and remembering the new date seemed harder than just sucking it up and going on the regular day. Secondly, I was pretty sure that food poisoning is not contagious. But most importantly, I was scared that if I had to delay the final for another week or so, I would forget things and I would fail (this test had 80 percent as the lowest passing grade).

Other students and faculty agree that sometimes, a person is either not sick enough to take a sick day or times and circumstances can conspire to make taking time off a danger to grades or, worse, their job. That said, there are more specific points where they disagree.

For instance, some students on campus, such as Christine Parris, seem to generally support a college-wide policy on the minimum amount of excused absences for illness and family matters that a teacher must offer. Currently, the college policy is to leave the issue of excused absences up to individual professors, while recommending two excused per credit hour on the Policies page of the website (which may be, as frequently happens with the website, out of date). Not all professors like to give a set number of excused absences though.

“Some students have taken ‘Oh well, I’ve only had six absences and this is my seventh,'”  said WCC Mathematic Professor Rowan Lindley, “It was like giving them permission to be absent.”

Nevertheless, she is not the slave driver this comment might make her seem.

“It’s not possible for me to judge whether a person should or should not be absent” said Lindley, “so I don’t have excused or unexcused absences, they should just try to be in class every day.”

While it is an individual’s judgement call when to take a sick day, I would add that there are some red flag symptoms that seem to be largely agreed on as good reasons to stay home.  Especially in flu season, if a doctor has confirmed that you’re contagious, you need to stay home for your classmates’ sake as well as yours.

High traffic public places like schools are perfect breeding grounds for contagious diseases and classmates can then spread the flu or the stomach bug to their families and perhaps their coworkers.  Fever, chills, aching and intense, frequent coughs are also symptoms that Health Services Coordinator Janice Gilroy cites as potential signs of flu.

Moreover, consider other people’s safety as well as your own. Be wary of splitting headaches, inappropriate exhaustion and other symptoms that could impair your ability to get to campus.  We’re a commuter campus and already have a significant accident rate.  And if you’re having a mental health crisis, take the time to take care of yourself.  A breakdown in class can be just as disruptive to learning as a flu outbreak.

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