University Health Services

I received this e-mail from a student at 12:44 p.m. on Monday - almost three hours after the deadline to hand in papers:
I was not able to attend class today to hand in my paper, the reason for this is I had to make an emergency trip to the doctor this morning becuase of some heart problems I'm experiencing. At this point I am not sure if there is need for immediate concern, we are still awaiting the results of the tests. I can give you my paper Wednesday morning in class personally or if there is another method you'd prefer please let me know. Also, I have a dated letter from the health office, just in case.

My response was:
A medical emergency would exempt you from the late penalty - I'll get the paper and note from you on Wednesday.

Now I'm not suggesting that this student is faking the medical issues, because she's been a very good student otherwise, but this is the letter UHS gave her to give me:
Dear Colleague:

Just as the University does not require its employees to provide a written "medical excuse" for absences due to illness, most instructors do not demand that students provide "medical excuses" for their absences due to illness or injury.

It is, and has been for many years, the policy of University Health Services not to provide such "excuses." Our reasons are several, including our finite resources (which are better devoted to health care), our lack of direct knowledge about illnesses or injuries effectively managed by self care, and our commitment to student privacy. Our policy resembles those of many other major universities; it is consistent with the recommendations of the American College Health Association, and is supported by the Dean of Students.

This policy is respectful of students, promotes mature behavior in our campus community, and avoids inconvenience for both students and instructors.

I'm pretty lenient and she probably would have been given the two-day extension anyway, but I'm a little annoyed at the rampant condescension in the letter from UHS. From the implication that I'm asking doctors to let patients die so they can write excuses (sorry - "excuses"), to the suggestion that I'm not behaving maturely - I'm annoyed with it all. And I didn't even "demand" this letter - she offered to bring it!

Am I being heartless here?


Anonymous said...

Hard to say, sounds like the student already had the "dated note" in hand before even volunteering it. Is that the standard form letter to send? Most doctor's would just confirm the patient was in the office during the designated time period, without having to say anything about the reason why they were there. Even in a business office, if a worker is out, the HR department may ask for a doctors note. But... it does sound a little shady to me. Maybe she was doing something else, realized she didn't have time to make it to class, and THEN went to the doctor. (I recall doing that in high school once).

Juan Dixon's Number 1 Fan said...

That letter could have been half the length, and could have been twice as polite. Yes, they want to encourage students being mature...and we want to discourage cheating and plagiarizing. Given my experience with the latter, I want a note.