Winter sickness not an excuse for missing finals

By Gretchen Andersen

Walking in a “winter wonderland” might be pleasant, but when students are sniffling,… Walking in a “winter wonderland” might be pleasant, but when students are sniffling, coughing and have exams all week, it becomes a different experience.

Being sick or missing a final could be devastating, and there isn’t a University-wide policy on missed finals.

Dr. Elizabeth Wettick, director of Student Health Service, provided some advice for students as they push through the final days before winter break.

One of her suggestions warned students against relying on products that claim to boost people’s immune systems.

Although Airborne woos buyers with the promise of maximized immunity, Wettick said in an e-mail that standard health practices are the most effective wards against sickness.

In order to prevent getting sick during finals, she said there are a few things students can do.

Students should wash hands “frequently,” get about 8 or more hours of sleep and avoid those who are ill by not sharing “drinks, lip balm, etc.” Wettick also stressed that students should get flu shots.

Drinking eight to 10 8-ounce drinks per day is also helpful, Wettick said.

“Hydration is always important. I generally recommend that students take a medication that ‘targets’ the most bothersome symptom. I am not partial to OTC products . . . which combine a low, often inadequate dose of multiple medications,” Wettick said.

Student Health Service is open to all Pitt students and is located on 3708 Fifth Ave.

The most common illnesses it sees right now are respiratory infections, including coughs, colds and pharyngitis, Wettick said.

Students who visit the health center “receive a face sheet for documentation of their visit,” however, “this does not provide any specifics of the illness as that would violate the student’s privacy,” Wettick said.

Students who get sick and miss their finals need to communicate with professors about their illnesses and make up exams, Wettick said.

For students who miss their finals because of illness, Katherine Wolfe — Department of Economics adviser and lecturer — said most professors state their policies in the syllabus, but “if you have a major problem, go to the department chair. It’s not up to me to decide how sick you are.”

“A cold is not an excuse. I can come to work with a cold,” she said. “If you are ill, see your department chair, It’s your best bet.”

Oronde Sharif, major adviser and lecturer in the Department of Africana Studies, said that he makes accommodations.

“I try to figure out what is going on, either set up a time to somehow make it up if they have a medical reason,” Sharif said. “I work with people. You need to make arrangements.”

Sharif also advised students to go to their adviser and dean’s office.

History Department Chair Reid Andrews said his department has no official policy on finals absences; those decisions are left to the professors’ discretion. Andrews said that students rarely have to come to him to make up a final, but more often a midterm. If students provide proof that they are sick, Andrews said he will arrange a make-up final.

“The student is almost always able to work it out with their professors,” he said.

Amy Smith, a freshman, said she is not the type to get sick for a long period of time and that she would just keep working through finals week if she got sick.

“I would just lay in bed and study,” she said. “Maybe get someone to help me study.”