Exams aren’t flexible enough for students who have the flu

Alice Kanitz Sanchez

When I got the flu last February, I was anything but prepared. I had gotten the flu shot the semester before, and I had two exams that week — I didn’t have time to get sick.

As it turns out, whether I had time or not didn’t matter. On Tuesday, I woke up sick and in pain, and promptly went to my first class so I wouldn’t miss attendance points. After my first two classes, I stumbled my way to University Health Services, each step feeling like my legs were made of lead. I was immediately rushed to urgent care and diagnosed with the flu. I deliriously asked if I could be diagnosed any faster, because I needed to get to my third class. I did not get to my third class.

The rest of the week was a mix of chicken soup, hallucinating headaches and going on a wild goose chase for absence justifications for my exams later that week. I emailed my professors with a doctor’s note and made plans with both to arrange a subsequent date for me to take a test. My statistics professor quickly responded and arranged an alternative exam time. My PSY 306 teaching assistant emailed me back, stating that make-up exams were not allowed, and I would have to drop that exam grade.

The grading policy for that class stated that there were five exams and one of them was a “drop,” or an exam that would not be counted. A makeup exam was only available in the case of a “medical emergency,” which apparently did not include having a fever of 104 degrees or headaches so painful I couldn’t think about anything but how white the ceiling was. Eating was impossible and the porcelain toilet was my best friend that week. However, apparently, I wasn’t sick enough to gain the option of taking a makeup exam.

My final grade in the course was fine. I got a zero for the exam I missed, but it was dropped. However, my final grade wasn’t stellar. The exams for that class were graded on a curve and got increasingly harder with time. I missed the second exam,one which I was confident of getting a good score on. I won’t lie that it was upsetting. If I had been allowed to take the second exam, I might have been able to drop a lower score. People who did not have the flu on the third week of February had that option, but I didn’t. 

Personally, this was my only experience with a class where exam makeup requests were not accommodated — across all my chemistry, calculus, biology and human development courses, this was the only one for which I was inexplicably denied a makeup exam for being ill. After the initial debacle, I traded another few emails with my TA, knowing persistence was my only chance at not tanking my course grade, but she stated it was absolutely not possible. It wasn’t her fault, really — she was just enforcing the professor’s boundaries.

I would like to pressure the University to make a uniform policy for makeup exams where anyone who offers proof of sickness during a midterm or final can get a chance to redo them. Until that happens, my takeaways are: always get the flu shot, and don’t get sick if you want to have the option to drop your lowest exam grade in your class.

Kanitz Sanchez is a human development and family sciences senior.