Sicker than fiction

Let me start off by saying, unless you’re running a high temperature or you just lost a finger in woodshop — there’s no way in hell Student Health Services will write you a note to get out of class, no matter how sick you feel.

In the midst of one of the worst colds I’ve ever had to weather, I was told by a medical professional at the health center that my symptoms were not bad enough for me to be excused from class.

I realized right then and there that the services heavily promoted on campus to “help students” are not all they’re cracked up to be — despite the fact that we pay the $75 health fee. It almost seems as though they assume every student asking for a doctor’s note is faking it.

It was the week before spring break and Cal State Long Beach was in full-blown midterm mania — of course I would get sick. That day, I had two classes, two projects due and a midterm to tackle at 5:30 p.m.

Oh, and did I mention I’m also the news editor for the Daily 49er and I basically spend every waking moment that I’m not working on school work, working in the newsroom? Yeah, you get the point; I’m a busy bee.

On that particular day, I was a disgusting mess of a human being and I should not have been anywhere near society.

Even though it was glaringly obvious to most that I should have been nothing short of quarantined, Student Health Services gathered a different opinion.  

After emailing my professor to beg for mercy, I wasn’t surprised when he said he’d need a note to excuse me from the midterm. I also didn’t think I would have trouble proving my current state to a medical professional.

I was so very wrong.

When I finally saw the doctor, she told me I had a cold. Gee, you don’t say, doc?

“I know,” I managed. “I don’t think I can make it through this day, I need to go to sleep. I can barely get through a sentence without my nose dripping all over my paper or sneezing. My professor said I could skip my midterm, but I need a note. I need ‘proof’ that I’m sick.”

She balked at that, informing me that Student Health Services does not give notes unless symptoms were dire. Her tone and expression were nothing shy of condescending as she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.

So, naturally, I began sobbing.

She told me that I was probably congested because I had been crying and treated as if I were a child trying to play hookey or get out of taking a test. Trust me, I’m an adult who works and goes to school full-time to pay for my higher education, why would I want to go through all of that to miss half a day?

“Do you tell students who come in here sick, to stay on campus?” I asked her, “So they can get others sick and just suffer through it?”

She did not reply and offered me a prescription for Robitussin. Thanks a lot.

When I stepped through the door to take my midterm at 5:30 p.m., my professor took one look at me and told me to go home. So all of this upset was for nought.

How is it that a professor could take one look at me and decide I was too ill to be in public, but a paid medical professional could not?

I was visibly, physically and audibly sick. I didn’t want to be there either — but I felt that I had to. That’s what we all do; it’s the American way and quite frankly, it sucks.

When I reached out for answers to clarify how sick one actually has to be to receive a note,  Student Health Services was not able to comment.

While I understand that many students fake illness to play hookey and they can’t excuse every condition, there should be some sort of threshold short of dying to get out of class.

If a professor is ill, they have the option to simply cancel class. If a student catches that same bug, most likely they will have three to four professors to reason with — just to miss one day. If that happens during finals or midterms, you’re essentially screwed.

We are paying to attend college, so shouldn’t we be allowed to take a sick day or even a mental health day every once in a while? As long as the student communicates with the professor and it’s not a recurring instance, I don’t understand why this would be an issue.

This protocol needs to change. It’s no wonder these superbugs and flus spread like wildfire on college campuses. No one wants to be around a sick person and no one wants to get sick. But if trained and licensed medical professionals on our very own campus are telling students like myself to suffer through it, how are we to break this cycle?

It would seem that these services are, indeed, not supporting the student body in the way they are advertised.

And besides, if anyone could really muster the nerve and the physical facade to fake an illness as severe as I was experiencing that day — they probably deserve the day off anyway.

One Comment

  1. Please tell me that the Student Health Services read this article? I think its important that they do.

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