Staying home sick is mindful of the common good, but syllabi don’t account for days off.

Tyler Scott

Living as a student on a college campus is like volunteering to live in a quarantine zone post-outbreak. Getting sick at some point throughout the year is basically a guarantee.

As of Nov. 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already reporting “sporadic” influenza activity in the state of Michigan. “Winter” and “flu season” are interchangeable, but if it isn’t the flu that turns lecture halls into a cacophony of sniffles, coughs and sneezes, then it’s going to be something else.

Students will fall to influenza and seasonal bugs, and an ideal world would have each student stay home nestled safely in their beds — far away from the uninfected.

The mass e-mail sent out by the Newnan Advising Center urges students to report illnesses, notify instructors when missing class is necessary, and to “Get Better, Stay Better” in order to keep campus a healthier place.

However, studying at the University doesn’t leave room for unplanned absences. The misery of legitimate illness is only made worse by the compounded anxiety of missing class and being too sick to work.

Ultimately, suffering through one day of lecture does less harm than missing one because there is no incentive to preserve the collective health of the student body. Meanwhile, the burden falls on individuals who are already sick, and it is individual efforts that are quantified, measured and used to determine our future.

Collegiate society is based entirely upon competition and individual performance. From day one of freshman year, good grades, internships and respectable careers are all being vied for by millions of students obsessed with trying to outshine each other.

To stay relevant in the dogged competition takes perseverance, blind luck and harnessing of any controllable variables. Getting sick is up to luck. Getting sick and then still going to class is the only thing a student can do that wouldn’t only make the situation worse.

Discouraging the spread of illness is a laudable social position, but it doesn’t stand up to logic. It’s true that there would be less suffering for everyone if nobody with a triple-digit temperature ever tried to limp through a full day of classes, but if you never expected to meet suffering in college, prepare for surprise. College is a breeding ground for suffering.

In the end, you either get that degree or you don’t. Students trying to integrate a perpetually runny nose into their normal routine have it as bad as anybody, and are still just trying to do what they came here to do.

Nature and all her harshness shows no mercy on us, making it worse when we don’t show empathy toward each other. The only way to try and make it seem like we aren’t the playthings of chance is to combat adversity with mutual understanding and community.

Going to class sick is much more an act of survival than of selfishness. Comfort is the cost of progress and it has to be paid.

Tyler Scott can be reached at tylscott@umich.edu.

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