Absence policy could revert for H1N1

Students are currently required to provide proof of illness.

Luke Feuerherm

Empty seats due to illnesses in University of Minnesota classrooms last semester went unchecked because of the UniversityâÄôs policy toward the second wave of the H1N1 virus. For now, the University has reverted back to its original policy, and students must present proof from a doctor if they miss class due to illness. However, some experts predict that a third wave of the illness is possible, and the University is prepared once again to allow undocumented absences should that happen. Public health officials at the University described the H1N1 pandemic as the first to hit the University in the past 40 years. The University of Wisconsin also suspended their doctorâÄôs note requirement last fall and still do not require verification for absences. âÄúWe had a second wave [of the illness] this fall, and that wave has been abetted,âÄù said John Finnegan, assistant vice president for public health preparedness and emergency response at the University of Minnesota. âÄúWeâÄôve been able to get a lot of vaccinations out there, and itâÄôs time to reinstate the original policy.âÄù Finnegan said a third wave was possible but unlikely. He confirmed that if another wave were to arrive, the University would likely suspend their doctorâÄôs note policy once again. âÄúIt was clear we were going to be facing a pandemic influenza,âÄù Finnegan said. âÄúWe did not want to go into that situation by overwhelming the health care system with hundreds, if not thousands, of students seeking notes.âÄù Some have speculated that the fall policy allowed students to take advantage of the low amount of accountability, but University officials assert that the policy change was based solely on the decreased prevalence of the flu virus. âÄúGiven how widespread influenza-like illness was at that time, I donâÄôt think there was a widespread problem [of policy abuse] that we are aware of,âÄù said Sharon Reich Paulsen, assistant vice president of the Office of Academic Affairs. Fall attendance figures are unavailable because faculty members are not required to report attendance to the University. Some students disagree with how widespread the abuse may have been fall semester. âÄúI think itâÄôs OK,âÄù said sophomore mathematics major Megan Christensen when asked about the reversion back to the original policy. âÄúThere were a lot of students who took advantage of it.âÄù