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With COVID-19 cases on the rise and flu season in full effect, sickness has recently become the norm on campus. In yet another semester defined by the pandemic, students told The Michigan Daily they find themselves asking instructors for accommodations more than ever before.
“Everyone around me has been sick here and there — my friend got the flu last week, but he was perfectly fine,” Shen said. “Other people have been really, really sick, especially in the dorms.”
Shen said he was no exception to this campus-wide trend, as he fell sick with pneumonia early on in the semester and experienced symptoms that lingered through September.
“Since two or three days after I moved in, I started getting a sore throat and then got progressively worse over time,” Shen said. “I was probably sick for a good month, but not deathly sick.”
During midterm season, Shen said he realized his workload was becoming too much to handle on top of managing his pneumonia symptoms. With three exams in a single week, Shen said he felt especially burnt out. He explained his situation to his MATH 215 instructor Mattias Jonsson, professor of mathematics, who then let him opt out of his midterm.
“(My professor) was really understanding and just asked for a doctor’s note,” Shen said. “He said I could skip the first midterm, and the next two would be weighted heavier to accommodate me missing the first one.”
In an email to The Daily, Jonsson reiterated the course’s accommodation policy, citing alternative ways to make up for missed exams.
“In MATH 215, there are two midterm exams and a final exam, along with a good deal of homework,” Jonsson said. “For students who miss one of the midterm exams for illness, the general policy has been not to count that midterm and instead reweight the other midterm and final exam.”
Accommodations generally depend on department or course policies. Some instructors have incorporated different ways for students to make up or drop assignments when they feel sick. After testing positive for COVID-19 during midterm season, Engineering junior Izzy Ferranti said one of her instructors offered a virtual option to take her typically in-person quiz.
“I received an exam accommodation for CHEM 342, which was held online the same day as the regularly scheduled quiz,” Ferranti said. “I thought having it the same day was difficult because it was shortly after I developed symptoms, so I still wasn’t feeling well.”
Ferranti said her CHEM 342 professor was willing to push her quiz back several days to allow for a recovery period.
“I was able to take (my quiz) on campus when I was released from quarantine, about four days after the regularly scheduled quiz,” Ferranti said. “This was helpful because I was able to ask questions in person, and I didn’t have the stress of taking it online.”
While Ferranti said the accommodations she received helped alleviate some stress, LSA senior Aratrika Ganguli said she wished the Economics Department had taken a similar approach. After testing positive for COVID-19 several days before her ECON 431 midterm, Ganguli said she emailed her professor asking to take the exam virtually or at a later date only to find that there was no alternative to the in-person exam, as per department policy.
“When (my professor and I) were conversing through email, she let me know that there are just no options for those who are sick,” Ganguli said. “We would just make you not take this exam, which would mean that my final exam is worth 60% of my entire grade.”
Ganguli said this accommodation only exacerbated her stress, especially when thinking about how much more she would need to prepare for her future exam.
“Now, I feel like any free time I have, I need to be studying for my final because I know that whatever grade I get on that final is literally my grade for the class,” Ganguli said. “That’s very stressful for a student who did not even expect to get sick.”
The Economics Department did not respond to The Daily when asked to comment on its accommodation policy.
Despite her frustration with the Economics Department’s policy, Ganguli said all of her professors were understanding of her situation and reminded her to focus on her mental and physical health during quarantine.
“I was very happy to see my professors’ reactions … they all told me to prioritize my health and stop worrying about everything else,” Ganguli said. “But the only thing that’s going through my head as a senior is my grade and what’s going to happen if I can’t attend this class.”
While attending classes asynchronously prevented her from falling far behind on coursework, Ganguli said she spent most of her free time in quarantine catching up on lecture content instead of fully recovering.
“Because I had a lot of time during quarantine, I felt as though I was just doing homework the entire time,” Ganguli said. “There wasn’t a lot of free time to walk around, breathe and take care of my own health.”
When Ferranti began attending in-person classes again, she said she felt mostly caught up with classwork because she could attend lectures asynchronously during her quarantine period.
“When I returned to the classroom, I did not feel like I fell behind on coursework due to asynchronous lectures,” Ferranti said. “The only setback I experienced was missing my CHEM 342 discussion, which is helpful for solving homework problems.”
The amount of time Ganguli dedicated to her courses during quarantine and the additional stress of heavily-weighted exams are both indicative of some of the struggles students continue to face this semester.
“It was definitely tough to balance taking care of your own health and making sure you’re on top of things,” Ganguli said. “So, it really sucks to see that you’re at a disadvantage in terms of your education because of the fact that you unexpectedly got sick.”
Daily Staff Reporter Evan Delorenzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.