University of Washington Student Government Declares Doctor Notes Can Make You Sick

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.

16 thoughts on “University of Washington Student Government Declares Doctor Notes Can Make You Sick”

  1. Student government is a colossal waste of time and a perpetual fool’s errand. It has no relevant power (thankfully these days) and often comprised of small minds fighting to transform themselves from inconsequence to relevance–vying to be the president of the ant hill.

    If only they would self-style themselves with grandiose titles such as Willy, the 23rdViscount Flatbush, or Chris Childless, the First Baron Uterus. At least then they would serve as laughing stock to break the monotony of the sophomore year.

    1. Agreed. The student affairs apparat could employ an office manager to traffick cop the use of physical plant and the comptroller’s office could audit the accounts of student clubs. Otherwise, student activities are properly financed out the contributions of club members, parents, alumni, and outside foundations. There’s no need for a ‘student government’ to appropriate fees and ‘recognition’, because there should be no fees and recognition should consist of filing a set of club bylaws (drawn from form books) with the office manager.

  2. If a student missed a scheduled presentation or examination, the request for a proofs is legitimate, because the professor is being asked to grant a dispensation. Otherwise, he’s just being a pest. The professor is a salaried service provider, not your mother.

  3. UDubya always good for a laugh but not much on objective education. Still the team has to be better than Arizona State.

  4. It’s cold and flu season. You have a cold with a cough. You miss one lecture. If you are required to get a note, you have to go to the doctor’s office where people are there coughing and hacking with bronchitis or the flu. On top of that mild cold, then you get the flu. That can be deadly for someone with respiratory problems.

    Public schools do not require a doctors note until a child is out for 3 days. That seems reasonable for the workplace and university, as well. If sick days are excessive then require a note.

    However, it is the professor’s purview what he requires for missed classes. I would try to explain the reasons for changing the policy but if he won’t he won’t.

  5. The new documentary “No more safe spaces” seems to be doing extremely well with audience members (99% approval on Rottentomatoes) but the “professional critics” hate it ( 45% approval). Good luck finding a theater playing it

    The double standard is worrisome

  6. Maybe they need to hire a doctor who hates youngsters and he will handle writing notes.

  7. I find it infantile that colleges require students to attend class! WTH?! If a student can pass the class by handing in all assignments and taking the tests and quizzes, why require ANY attendance? Is the purpose of the student to ensure an audience for the staff? In my view, we are infantilizing young “adults” and then complain that they are immature and don’t grasp the consequences for their behavior. Why should one have to be physically ill to miss a class? This is just one more means for helicopter clingy parents to hover over their “children.” Let them grow up and accept the consequences!

    1. debinrye,

      If you go to a state college, attendance should be mandatory. I went to a SUNY college and I had a teacher put it this way to us. He told us that he most certainly did take attendance and that your grade would be affected by absence. He went on to explain to us that our tuition (at the time) was ~$2,400 a semester. Of that, two thirds was paid by the tax payers of NY so we in a way had signed a “contract” to be there.

      We had an Mech Eng. intern at our company this past summer. I got to talking with him and he went on to explain that Chemistry 101 was hard. I told him really? It shouldn’t have been too difficult. He then went on to tell me that he only went to a handful of classes. So I tried to explain to him that it wasn’t that Chem was hard, it was just that he was lazy. Honest to god, his reply was, “I had things to do?” I realized I was now dealing with an idiot.

      1. You’re kidding. He skipped out on chem class and complained it was hard? What a fantastic attitude in an intern seeking to become a new hire.

        1. Karen,

          I know, I almost didn’t know how to respond. He then told me about passing psychology class without ever going. He said why would he ever go if he didn’t need too? I tried to explain that well, maybe, intersecting with others you might have learned something that wasn’t in the book. I knew I was talking to the wall though.

      2. If you go to a state college, attendance should be mandatory.


        He went on to explain to us that our tuition (at the time) was ~$2,400 a semester. Of that, two thirds was paid by the tax payers of NY so we in a way had signed a “contract” to be there.

        1. His accounting likely wouldn’t withstand an audit. For starters, 30% of SUNY’s collective expenditures derive from state appropriations, not 2/3.

        2. The students are not employees. And there is no contract.

      3. A family member of mine works occasionally with interns. They told me that in the past five years, the laziness of the students grew markedly. It’s not just a bit of trying to evade difficult work, It’s unconscionable for nearly all of them that one needs to step up to the plate and actually work. It’s like the circuitry in their brain is unplugged.

        You could stand them before a broken pop bottle that someone dropped onto the floor. They would see it, then immediately go right to their smart phones and start text messaging their friends about whatever it is that is so otherwise compelling to talk about, like what kind of pizza they had for dinner last week. It would never occur to most of them to clean up the sharp glass and sticky puddle. They often have to be prodded to do what everyone else just assumed was part of the job. Supervising them is no longer enjoyable I’m told. And if any criticism is made against them they completely fall apart at the seams and go whining back to their school, having a meltdown at how horribly they were treated. Then it’s the employee who gets yarded up by management. I recommended they stop training interns. It isn’t worth it any more. Or if you have to train them, just shine-on those precious snowflakes about how wonderful they are just to keep them out of your hair. Then if they get hired after graduation they will get a bitterly cold dose of reality when nobody wants to spoon feed them platitudes and life red-pills them involuntarily.

        1. Color me skeptical. I don’t believe the employment-to-population ratio for those between the ages of 16 and 25 has been declining in recent years.

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