At Albion College, students not-so-affectionately refer to any form of sickness contracted on campus as the “Albion Plague.” Professors say that living on a residential campus is like living in a germ-filled petri dish (Gross, right?).
But most of these same professors have some form of attendance policy. For some, if a student is sick, it counts as an excused absence. For others, any absence is considered unexcused. Moreover, if students miss three classes throughout the semester, their class grades are lowered. Students are understandably afraid of missing class because it will bring down their grades. In refusing to miss class, however, they risk spreading germs, thereby getting other students, faculty and staff sick.
With mandatory attendance policies in place, it’s not surprising that the Albion Plague spreads quickly and doesn’t stop once it starts. This semester, I am in a class that has this policy. The class is important to my major and is a topic that I am passionate about. It is a very important class that should not be missed, but if I’m ill, is attendance worth the risk of getting my classmates and professor sick?
Albion College has a responsibility for the well-being of every student and that includes their physical health but requiring a doctor’s note for an excused absence discriminates against students who can not afford to go to the doctor.
After the homecoming 2019 weekend, many people came down with a mystery illness. Personally, I contracted a respiratory illness that made breathing almost impossible. My roommate suffered because I blew my nose so often. My illness was actually walking pneumonia, so Fall Break was spent trying to recover.
Alumni who came back for homecoming weekend were not immune to contracting illnesses, either.
“I was only in Albion for 24 hours and got the Albion Plague?” Hunter Jackman, ’19, said in a Tweet.
Student Health Services shut down last spring, replaced by Oaklawn Medical Center. Since then, students no longer have access to the medical care and tests that were provided for little or no cost. Student Health Services was the only healthcare for many students including out-of-state, undocumented, uninsured and those who do not qualify for Medicaid. To presumably save money, Albion College took a provided benefit promised when students enrolled and turned it over to a private company to profit off of students.
“When I have some injury [or illness], I don’t even get it checked out, [because] we have to pay now, and I’m not about that. College healthcare should be free for students, especially since we pay tuition. Every college has a college clinic, not a town clinic,” said Priyanka Khan, a junior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Albion College had a responsibility to provide health services for enrolled students when Oaklawn Medical Services took over. They should have included provisions to provide care for uninsured students caught in the gap they created. This would have helped all students remain healthier by having fewer students at risk of illness and reducing both the number and severity of cases of the Albion College Plague.
“When it was suggested, I didn’t know they were completely getting rid of health services on campus. I thought it was going to be an additional clinic,” said Lesley Ortega, a junior from Dallas, Texas
The decision to close Student Health Services and opt for using Oaklawn has caused many strong emotions among students.
“The fact that they are charging us money at Oaklawn [for] something we got for free at Health Services is ridiculous,” said Macie Jones, a senior from Battle Creek, Mich.
The Albion Plague started already this year, if you’re like me and don’t have insurance, the best health advice I can offer is to use plenty of hand sanitizer.