It is the policy of the Rose-Hulman Institute of
Technology Student Health Services not to give medical excuse
documentation of illness for class or work absences. The only
exception to this policy will be for illnesses or injuries that,
after examination by the physician, are determined severe and/or
contagious posing a threat to the patient or
The medical excuse policy resembles those of many other
universities, is consistent with the recommendations of the
American College Health Association, and is supported by the Vice
President for Student Affairs.
There are several reasons for this policy:
First, the requirement of written medical excuses fosters a certain
amount of distrust between faculty and students. The Student
Code of Conduct addresses the need for students to be honest and
trustworthy in their actions regarding all aspects of their
education. Requiring a student to produce a note to "prove" they
were ill goes against that trust; therefore, it is best when
students and faculty collaborate to resolve these issues.
Second, there are many patient confidentiality laws that must be
observed. These laws make it very difficult to release any
information about patients seen at Student Health Services.
Third, it creates an enormous burden on the Student Health
Services to write excuses for everyone who is sick. Our
facilities and resources are very limited. We currently see
many ill students a day who all require direct medical care, which
is critical to their health and well-being. Therefore, we are
not physically able to accommodate the extra burden.
In many cases we have no firsthand knowledge of student illnesses.
Requiring written medical excuses for students who elect to be
treated at other facilities or perform self-care, forces the
student to come to SHS only after they are better just to get a
note for class. This is a wasteful use of our already limited
resources. Furthermore, making recovered or well students come
to Student Health Services for a note exposes them (and
others) to illnesses while at Student Health Services. This
then becomes a public health issue.
In addition, we often had difficulty making assessments
regarding the appropriateness of giving an excuse. For example,
some students with simple colds would request a medical excuse
while others with similar illnesses remained in class and performed
well (and the same could be said for work). Since medical personnel
remain, by definition, the patient's advocate, we are not in a
position of judging motives of patients in an attempt to determine
whether any given request for an excuse is valid. Moreover, many
requests are made by students who may have been legitimately
impaired, but who did not visit a clinician while ill. It is
difficult and often impossible to assess the seriousness of a
condition retroactively in the absence of signs or symptoms.
Finally, a part of the mission of Student
Health Services is to teach appropriate health care
consumerism. The practice of providing medical excuse notes sends
mixed messages to students about the appropriate use of health care
resources. Students are encouraged to communicate with their
instructors if they are going to miss class for any reason.