For many students, Winter Term at Andover can be one of the most difficult and dreaded times of the year. For many of us, the term’s shortcomings are not due to earlier sunsets, menacing winds, or heavy snow, but the realization that the flu season has arrived.
As the flu and other illnesses run rampant, the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center seems to overflow with patients. Many more sick students, however, struggle through their classes, battling disease on top of their studies. Some have been turned away due to bed shortages with only the aid of medicine meant to temporarily alleviate their symptoms. Others fear that if they choose to visit Sykes, they will not be excused from their major assignments, thus falling behind their peers.
We understand the immense amount of effort it takes to keep students healthy at this school. The Wellness Center has a limited capacity and the staff can only do so much to assist the needs of our entire student body. With this in mind, the efforts of the Wellness Center staff to keep up with contagion should be applauded and appreciated by every person in this community. However, despite individual efforts to keep our student body well, many students find that the policies implemented in the Wellness Center are primarily directed towards expediting a student’s recovery process as opposed to helping them achieve complete recovery.
Sykes has instructions preventing nurses from excusing sick students from graded assessments or assignments, according to Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director and Codirector of Wellness Education. Although this policy is meant to prevent misuse of facilities, students who are turned away from Sykes often feel unable to perform due to their illness, and many teachers require prior notice of at least 24 hours before rescheduling an assignment. Sickness is not a planned condition, and ill students cannot be expected to remain clearminded during quizzes, tests, and in-class essays.
In a time when the word “wellness” has become a buzzword on campus, students are receiving mixed signals about their health. We are constantly told to take care of ourselves, get more sleep, and make use of the Wellness Center that we are lucky to have. When students who have not had time to recover from sickness are sent back into the academic setting, it is assumed that we should put our schoolwork before anything else. This promotes a culture in which students are hyper-aware of their own academic well-being and dismissive of their arguably more important physical and mental health.
This mindset is not only found within the policies of the Wellness Center. The idea that academic life takes precedence over personal wellness is one that permeates our campus. In order to combat this harmful mindset, our community must make a conscious effort to prioritize student health over academic competition and success. No major assignment is worth the price of one’s health.