Friday, January 21, 2011

College Does Not Promote Individual or Group Health

"Well, duh!" you may say to yourself after reading the title.

The long hours, bad eating habits, lack of sleep, sedentary lifestyle, dangerous chemicals (depending on your major), large groups of people all sharing door knobs and stair rails and germs, and all the other obvious factors all lead college kids to be unhealthy.

But that's not what I'm talking about here.

What I'm talking about is the pressure for college kids to go to class when they are sick as dogs (by the way, "kids" here is the best collective term I could come up with. Yes, I recognize non-traditional students and older adults who go to college, but "college kids" sounds better than "collegians")

Professors tell college students to not show up to class if they are sick. This seems reasonable. If you are sick, stay home, rest up, get better, and don't infect the rest of us healthy people. In any other area of the workforce of education system, you would follow this logic. College kids can't.

It's not even so much that college kids are that thick headed. Speaking as a college student myself, I would love to stay home and get better. But we have pressures on us that literally FORCE us to go to class when we can barely keep our heads up.

Professors unwittingly intimidate sick kids to go to class.
Professors are intimidating. Don't believe me? Try going toe to toe with someone with a Ph.D., a masters, several years of professional experience, and a few more years teaching at a university, and tell me that you don't feel a bit jittery. You can't do it. So when a professor tells you that it is vital that you show up to every class, you do it! Yes, they also said that if you're sick don't show up, but that line in the syllabus that says "You can only miss 3 days before you are dropped a letter grade" or "If you miss X amount of days you will fail this course," you start to wonder if you're really too sick to go to class.

The "I'm paying too much money to miss this stuff" dilemma.
Have you priced college recently? Even a non-ivy league school like I go to is expensive. And before you say "Well, you should have done better in high school," let me tell you that most all grants and scholarships are awarded to the lower class kids. Middle class people fall between the cracks quite often. But I digress. College is expensive. A lot is riding on it. Pressure to get a decent job, pressure from parents and neighbors helping to pay for your way through school, not to mention student loans, and you really feel like every class you miss is money down the drain.

Lack of "good" medical care.
The first week of my sophomore year of college, I was miserable. I had a 103 degree fever, couldn't keep food in me, and just wanted to sleep all day. But the first week was super important. Everything happens in that very first week. So I went to class. I figured that if it got too bad, the campus nurse could help me out. WRONG! The campus nurse leaves early most days. Early, as in I went to see her (him?) at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and they had already gone home for the evening. But, as one of the assistance told me, she can give me some Tylenol and a list of doctors in the area. I took the list. I got treatment for..whatever I had...but the doctor wanted to treat me with steroids and antibiotics, without really knowing what I had. Not very reassuring, especially after all the MRSA reports still fresh in my mind. And that's just my experience. My friends have similar horror stories, all proving the same point: campus nurses have the stigma (properly?) of being insufficient and unreliable, and doctors in college towns (like all businesses in college towns) just want the money in the student's pockets. Yes, the doctor made me better. But I'm not sure how. Was it luck? They couldn't explain what I had, and it seemed to me like they were taking a shot in the dark. Kind of scary when you think about it.

The old favorites.
Of course, there is the normal "I'm not sick enough," "I can tough it through," and "Screw it, I'm going anyway" mentalities. But that's to be expected.

So sick college kids are going to class, infecting more people who still go to class, causing a whole pot full of yuckiness. And the longer a person is sick, the more prone they are to more sickness, and the longer on average they're sick. I have no idea how to fix this. I guess it's just an occupational hazard. Do you have any bright ideas to fix this?

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