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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

This is a public confession that I have gone to class sick. I know how wrong it is, and I promise that I truly don’t want to share my nasty germs with other people. But how can I justify not going to class, when all I have is a common cold?

If I had the flu, it would be different because I more than likely would be physically unable to move without hurling (sorry for the lack of a better euphemism). But a cough, sort throat and some sniffles, as cruddy as they are, just aren’t worth all the potential penalties that come along with a sick day.

What penalties, you may ask?

For one, violating an attendance policy can lower your grade in some classes. I personally don’t understand college attendance policies in the first place. If you don’t come to class, that’s on you, but life happens, and you shouldn’t have to start freaking out about your grades whenever a medical issue arises. We’re all adults here, and we all get sick from time to time. It happens. I’ve had many reasonable professors who don’t fret over absences (especially ones that are unavoidable, like sick days), but, unfortunately, common sense and compassion are not universal. I regret to say that other professors I’ve had wouldn’t excuse absences for anything short of death and were totally cool with lowering your grade as a result of an unfortunate natural affliction. As far as I know, it’s possible to get a doctor’s note proving you’re sick, but that’s no simple feat when you barely feel well enough to walk down the hall for some water. Journeying down to Campus Health, only to shuffle through the bureaucracy of a crowded waiting room and have someone tell me I have a common cold (you don’t say?) is the last thing I want to do when it feels like my brain is trying to fall out through my nose. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but the policy I’m thinking of only seems to apply in the case of more serious illnesses.

Another issue with getting sick is that, even if your grade isn’t directly tied to your attendance, you’re still missing class and any new material being covered, thereby affecting your grade. A friend or classmate might be willing to share notes, but what if his or her notes are, shall we say, less than satisfactory? What if no one is willing to share notes? What if you’re missing an in-class assignment, like a lab or a group presentation? There’s really no way to avoid or recover from that. Grading is another thing that I struggle to embrace, at least when it acts as more of a weed-out tool than an accurate representation of mastery. And I especially don’t care for grading when it’s not even measuring my academic prowess, but, instead, simply reflects an asinine attendance policy with little to no flexibility.

You might be thinking that these issues don’t apply to just college, but to high school and younger grades as well. And you’re right, to some extent. But the pace at which material is covered in college, combined with very few opportunities to recover falling grades, makes it so much harder to recover from medically induced absences. In addition to all this, there’s no one to help you take care of yourself, if you’re living away from home. Not only do you have your usual academic worries, but you also feel terrible, you probably aren’t eating well and you have to walk down the street in the cold to buy medicine. Not fun, and definitely not good for your health. Adulting is extra hard without your mom around.

I’d love to close this article by urging everyone to take care of themselves and get the healing rest they need, but, with a great sense of irony, I’m not sure I can do that in good conscience. I feel like I’d only be sentencing you to an academic struggle, as messed up as that is. Just use lots of Delsym and hand sanitizer, I guess.

Emily Stellman

Chapel Hill '21

Emily is an aspiring author that studies English and Comparative Literature at UNC. She is also minoring in History and hopes to one day become a lawyer or work in a museum. Her interests include music, doting on her pets and all things Disney!