The Winslow Health Center no longer issues class excuses for influenza, according to the school-wide email sent to the Allegheny student body on Friday, Jan. 24.
“When I got that email I was upset because the flu is something you should have an excuse for,” said Liz Hawk, ’15. “We pay to have that health center so they should be accommodating and they’re not.”
“I think that it’s the college’s responsibility to try and help the students when they’re sick and I don’t think they currently do enough,” said Timur Dikec, ’16.
According to Sue Plunkett, director of the health center, generally, the health center has never given out excuses for influenza.
“Only for a prolonged illness like mono, or surgery, or perhaps a severe throat infection which might keep the student away from class for several days,” said Plunkett on the topic of student excuses. “Again, this policy is consistent with what the American College Health Association supports.”
The email also informed students that if they are experiencing flu symptoms, they do not need to visit the health center. If students have complications, like ear infections or bronchitis, they are encouraged to visit their health care provider or schedule an appointment at the health center.
“Generally when somebody has the flu it’s what we call self-limited illness. What they really need is supportive care with over the counter medicines,” said Plunkett. “There’s no magic bullet for curing it.”
Multiple cases of influenza have been reported on campus this semester, common symptoms of the H1N1 virus include: cough, fever, sore throat, fatigue, headache and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Students are encouraged to stay in their rooms when they experience the flu, instead of visiting the health center, as to lessen the spread of the virus, according to Plunkett.
“Our policy is consistent with what the ACHA recommends,” said Plunkett. “That way it also keeps students who have influenza from coming and sitting in the waiting room and spreading the flu. Why would you want to get out of bed in sub-zero temperature and trek here?”
Many students around campus have expressed concern over health center policies, mostly concerning the flu and hours of operation.
“We pay to attend this institution, we are part of this community and sometimes it can feel like certain aspects of the college life are not geared towards the students,” said Dikec.
“Honestly I think it’s crap that they’re basically saying we are not going to give you an excuse if you have the flu. It’s the flu. It’s contagious. It’s a virus,” said Anastasia Georgiades, ’16. “What are you going to do, go to class? And if you don’t have an excuse then you miss all of that and you’re not getting credit for it and professors aren’t going to let you make that up.”
In accordance to ACHA policies, the health center encourages students to talk to their professors about excused absences for illness.
“My understanding it is has been explained to the faculty and that is something to be discussed with the students. We encourage faculty members to have conversations with students,” said Plunkett.
Many conversations with professors about illness are through email.
“When I email professors I generally don’t have problems, but there are some professors I don’t have the best relationship with,” said Dikec.
Georgiades and other students are concerned their professors do not always take informal excuses seriously, worrying their absence due to influenza will be considered unexcused.
“But then anybody can do that. You know? Like ‘oh I have the flu.’ That could be for any excuse,” said Georgiades.
Plunkett and other health center officials are concerned that if students come to the health center just to receive a class excuse, the student’s illness can cause more harm to the staff and other students in the center.
“Also, students with influenza, there’s not a lot we can do for them anyways,” said Plunkett.
The health center provides a self-care cold clinic and highly encourages students to visit the website for influenza treatment information. The health center is located in Schultz Hall and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“It’s a little bit ridiculous when we don’t have a health center open during the weekends,” said Dikec. That’s my biggest problem with the health center is that it is not very accessible.”