Medical Excuse Policy

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 community.

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.

A MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE ON ILLNESS

It is the hope of the SHS that this policy will be useful to faculty in evaluating student requests for special academic treatment. You might also find it helpful to review the medical perspective on how students deal with the effect of illness on academics: Our Findings.