Editorial Notebook

Sickly students suffer

I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t mean for this to be a rant. I just want to see changes made that will benefit every student at RPI. Changes to what? The Student Health Center. Or, rather, the various policies they employ.

The other day, I visited the center for the first time, and I was less than satisfied with the result. Normally, when I get sick, I don’t bother going anywhere because I can, at the very least, shuffle to class—granted, it’s sometimes rather taxing, particularly when I can barely breathe. But, that day, I woke up and immediately started dry heaving and shaking. Parts of my body started tingling and becoming numb. Frankly speaking, it sucked.

By the time I could actually move around, I had missed one of my classes—a class in which I had an important quiz to take. Obviously, I was concerned about the effect that could have on my grade. So, I checked the course’s syllabus and found a section explaining that I should get an excuse from the Health Center. As I didn’t trust myself to walk all the way there—I live in RAHPs, and it’s a rather lengthy walk if you’re not feeling well—I found a friend who was willing to drive me down.

By then, I felt reasonably healthy; there was still that nauseous feeling in my stomach, but nothing more. The first thing I was asked when I got to the desk was, “Do you have an appointment?” Having never had to deal with the Health Center before, I didn’t. So I was immediately told that I needed to set one up and come back. Annoyed, I moved to leave, but then the receptionist—who must have changed her mind or something—checked the schedule and let me know there was an open time slot.

So then I went through the whole process of getting checked up, only to be told that I couldn’t get a medical excuse for the class that I had missed. Why? Because the Health Center’s policy on excuses specifically states that excuses won’t be given out to students whose illnesses have mostly gone away by the time they visit the Health Center. As a result, I walked out of there with nothing more than a “Summary Sheet” that said I had been there.

My first major complaint with the Health Center’s policy is the one regarding medical excuses. Most of the time, students can’t make it there until their illnesses are mostly gone, regardless of their previous condition (unless they went to the hospital). Therefore, they can’t get excuses for any classes they missed. I can understand why they have a strict policy on excuses: there are a number of people who would game the system and skip classes whenever they wanted. However, the current policy prevents almost all students from being excused for illnesses. Also, it’d be nice if they updated their policy online to reflect changes to it (the entire condition that prevented me from getting an excuse isn’t listed there).

Another policy I have an issue with is the one regarding appointments. Granted, there is a reason for it: RPI has several thousand students and only one little Health Center. And, if you only look at that angle, the policy makes perfect sense. However, when you couple it with the medical excuse policy, it essentially discourages sick students from using the Health Center’s resources. I know multiple people who have had significant issues with the Health Center.

I have a few potential solutions. The first is to alter the excuse policy so that it doesn’t hinder students’ academic endeavors. It could be structured so that excuses are given out until a student hits, say, three. Then, the Health Center could look into the situation and not give out excuses quite so easily. The appointment policy isn’t as easy to fix. But, I would encourage the administration to invest more money into the Health Center so it could hire a few more people. That way, there would be doctors available to look at walk-in students.

Would these changes work? I have no idea, as I’m not exactly an expert on the subject. But, a re-evaluation of the current Health Center policies would go a long way to improving student life.