It was during my regular Thursday lecture for Psychology 111 that Prof. Shelly Schreier finished our session on stress and coping. “Now,” she directed at the class, “ how many of you would feel guilty if you skipped class?”

All at once, a great majority of hands were thrust upward and we all chuckled like it was some kind of joke. However strange, this response was perfectly warranted and not unusual for this University in particular. Of course we’d feel guilty; we’re already paying an arm and leg in tuition. But what about feeling guilty when we’re sick?

Why does being sick in college suck so much? In elementary school, it was drilled into our young minds that if we were sick, we shouldn’t come to school. However, being ill when we were young was easy — usually, it ended with our mothers fretting over us all day. I know whenever I was sick, my mom made me eat my weight in soup and fluids, putting “The Little Mermaid” in our worn-out DVD player as I dozed on the couch, surrounded by a small army of blankets and pillows.

But as soon as you hit college, it’s nearly impossible to get completely better without falling behind in your courses or for your mom to make you soup all day. (Shoutout to the guy in my hall last year who asked me how to go about making soup because his mom always did it for him. Respect.)

With a “work hard, play hard” motto that engulfs the academia life around campus, we, as students, cannot afford to skip class without the threat of failing looming over our shoulders. We’ve got iClickers that count for points, professors who don’t post completed lecture slides (I’m looking at you Chemistry Department) and those obscure participation points you’re not actually sure you’re earning anyways until they’re posted at the end of the term. Basically, if we skip class when we’re sick, we’re ultimately screwed one way or another. So we go, end up feeling miserable and get sicker in the process. It’s a vicious cycle that I’m sure University Health Services doesn’t appreciate.

Now, if I’m to be totally honest, I’m writing this under the influence of DayQuil while cuddling up next to a box of Kleenex and clutching my computer like a lifeline. I woke up this morning and, once I realized I actually felt worse rather than better, grabbed my box of Lucky Charms and crawled back into the cozy half-lofted bunk bed like The Grudge for another hour of sleep. Sounds wonderful, am I right? So can you tell me why I felt so guilty for taking care of myself the entire time?

If you were to Google the words “sick” and “college,”  the majority of results only seem to focus on one topic — how not to get sick. The first article that caught my eye went so far as to list the “7 Ways to Survive Being Sick in College.” I recommend that you stay away from reading that article if you ever plan on contemplating skipping class during an illness. Right off the bat, the author stretches the importance that when college students are sick, skipping class is the wrong thing to do. Because taking care of our grades is more important than our health and mental well-beings right?

Out of all the articles I read, nobody seems to want to talk about the inevitable “when” we get sick in school, but rather the possibility of “if” we will get sick. I’m sorry to break it to you all, but you are going to get sick sometime in the four years you’re here. And if you claim to have escaped the MPlague during the winters here, I’m sorry, but I call bullshit.

It’s important to recognize when we’re sick so that we can learn how to take care of ourselves properly in college. Finding the right balance between health and sickness while maintaining a good academic standing is hard to do in a school where participation is paramount, which is why the University should strive toward better accommodations for the sick.

Earlier this week, I thought my day was going badly when two important examinations fell within a half hour of one another. After my second exam finished, I was surprised to hear that one of my classmates had taken the examination with mono, dragging himself out of bed to make it to the exam room in time.

The current student guide for LSA detailing student class attendance states that the professor should make a “reasonable effort to accommodate the student” in the case of a “short term absence due to illness.” Reasonable effort? This works OK on paper, but not always for individual classes. It can be hard if a specific professor doesn’t post lecture slides or excuses quizzes and iClickers that may have occurred during an absence. If a student is truly allowed to miss class on the basis that they are responsible for missed work, how can we be expected to get ahead when we’re not given the resources to get there?

Basically, being sick really sucks. There’s not an “out sick” sign we can put around our necks to let our difficult professors know that we should really be in bed rather than class. In high school, we presented a doctor’s note to our teachers, a “get out of jail free” pass that excused us from attending class for the day. Unfortunately, it’s no longer as simple as calling in sick and getting your work the next day. So instead we suffer, languish and ultimately come out worse for the wear because we’re held down by the weight of all our responsibilities as students. It’s hard to miss classes in order to get better without our grades ultimately paying the price.

With finals week and the threat of snow almost upon us, we have to remember to take care of ourselves above all else. And until the University makes missing classes because of illness less of a hassle, we’ll just have to pick the days we can afford to miss in order to get well and help our health out in the long run. Until this day comes, I’ll be spending my sickly weekend mornings slurping ramen noodles and watching “The Little Mermaid” in pajamas all day.

Megan Mitchell can be reached at umeg@umich.edu.

 

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