The student government unanimously passed a curious resolution this month to denounce the requirement of some professors for students to bring a doctor’s note for short-term illnesses. The resolution objects that such notes could impose costs and even added illnesses for students.
Here is the operative langauge:
“WHEREAS students who are forced into visiting a medical provider for the sole purpose of obtaining a medical excuse note are pressured into engaging in a costly, and potentially risk [sic], patient-provider relationship without necessarily having an immediate medical need;”
“WHEREAS students who are forced into visiting a medical provider for the sole purpose of obtaining a medical excuse note are pressured into ensuring that they describe their symptoms in such a way that medical providers are guaranteed to provide them with a medical excuse note, which may then lead to tests and procedures that incur risk and/or are physically harmful . . . ”
Notably, however, the students also state that such notes are notoriously easy to get: “WHEREAS providers are trained to be patient advocates and are thus almost always guaranteed to issue medical excuse notes for their patients resulting in no meaningful check on student behavior.”
So the solution is not to require easily obtainable notes? That is not likely to overcome the view that this is part of academic freedom for each professor to set the policy governing absences.
The fact is that many of us do not require such notes. I have never demanded a note. I rely on the honor system for students who say that they are sick. Indeed, with the spread of flu and other colds, it is important to encourage students to stay home and recover fully from such illnesses.
None of this means that there is not a valid argument that such notes are burdensome or unnecessary. However, this is generally left to each professor. Yet, for those who require them, the “doctor’s note made me sick” argument is not likely to pass muster.