Tufts announced changes to its policy regarding missed midterm or graduation exams due to illness in an email to undergraduates on October 1. In the future, students will no longer be able to obtain grades exempting them from midterm exams or final exams via a walk-in appointment with Health services Where Counseling and Mental Health Services. Instead, critically ill students will now send an online form to their teachers notifying them of their illness, although the form will not be automatically excuse students from exams or classes. The university spoke of the need to allocate limited resources and waiting room space to those in need of medical attention as the reason for this change.
Michelle Bowdler, Executive Director of Health and Wellness Services, clarified that the policy change will not affect the types of care sick students can receive from the Health Service.
“The policy does not change any practice related to the Health Service’s current treatment models, how it provides treatment to students who are sick and in need of medical attention, or how it works with [the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs], deans who counsel and others to help students with chronic or prolonged illness, disability, bereavement or persistent mental health issues ”, Bowdler wrote in an email to The Daily.
According to Carmen Lowe, Dean of Academic Counseling and Undergraduate Studies, students who were too sick to take an intermediate or final exam before the pandemic had to alert their teacher in advance and visit the health service on the day of the exam receive a medical apology note.
“It was for acute illnesses, such as vomiting and fever”, Lowe wrote in an email to The Daily. “The marks were only for a midterm exam or a final in-class exam, and only for the day of the exam. Health Services has not and does not provide medical notes to relieve a student from class or to grant an extension of an assignment. ”
Due to the policy change, students no longer need a health service note if they have to miss an exam due to illness. bowler explained how this change will impact students.
“If a student suffers from an acute illness and is unable to take an exam, he must download [the form] and send it to their teacher, as has been the practice for many years ”, bowler wrote. “However – and this is where the change in practice occurs – the student no longer needs to go to the health department to be seen by a clinician to attest to their illness and provide a grade.”
bowler describes the reasoning behind this policy change.
“Asking students to visit the health service simply for a note would go against good public health practice”, Bowdler said. “The needs of the sick students are extreme right now and the volume and sharpness are high. And we still struggle daily against the impact of a global pandemic. Walk-in appointments have been on hold for over a year to avoid overcrowded waiting rooms that risk infecting students and spreading infection in and beyond our community. “
bowler says faculty members have been informed change in policy and have been informed clarify their policies for student absences and missed exams.
Marie-Pierre Gillette, part-time French teacher, explained that the new policy has the potential to simplify some of the administrative complications surrounding missing students.
“The [medical excuse] the notes were convenient for us because [they] made it clear that the student had a documented illness or some kind of emergency ”, said Gillette. “But it’s a lot of paperwork and it’s a lot of stress for the administration and for the students, and for the professors too because we had to go through all of this.”
Gillette said that now students can speak directly with teachers if they are not feeling well, rather than going through Health services. She gave examples of how she deals with students who have to miss exams due to illness.
“What we have to do [is] talk to the students… and then make it as easy as possible for them ”, Gillette said. “We can accommodate some of the exams [by putting] those online instead of having [students] take them in person.
According to Lowe, there is still a separate system for students with COVID-19 who have to miss class because they are isolated.
“For students required to self-isolate due to COVID, there is still a system of automatic emails that go directly to the student’s faculty to alert them when a student needs to self-isolate and when the student is allowed to return to class. ” Lowe noted.
The online form can be found on the WebCenter page under the Student Living tab in the Tufts Student Information System.