H1N1 affects attendance policy

Pragmatic administration ensures infected students stay home.

Anticipating a large-scale H1N1 influenza outbreak, administration at the University of Minnesota has adopted a new attendance policy designed to keep sick students out of the classroom and away from their healthy colleagues. The amendment to the Student Legitimate Absence Policy came at the recommendation of University health officials and the Centers for Disease Control, and is outlined in a campus-wide email sent out last night. The new policy exempts students exhibiting H1N1 symptoms from requiring a doctorâÄôs note for their absence. Symptoms of H1N1 include fever, cough, moderate to severe sore throat, runny nose, head- and body aches, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Asked who would verify such symptoms among absent students, School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan simply replied, âÄúNo one.âÄù But he did not expect studentsâÄô taking advantage of the policy to be a primary concern for University officials. âÄúThe problem is that Midwestern work ethic that says youâÄôll attend class even if youâÄôre ill.âÄù Perhaps Dean Finnegan is a bit naïve when it comes to his understanding of student desire to make that 6:00 p.m. lecture on Auditing Principles and Procedures. But few can criticize Finnegan or other University leaders for failing to understanding the importance of adopting a pragmatic attendance policy, one based on the honor system, which gives students the extra reassurance that health misfortunes wonâÄôt convert into academic penalties. Such a liberal attendance policy, along with a health-conscious student body, may be the only way to keep H1N1 infection rates as low as possible this fall.