Fighting An Excuse Epidemic

EXAMS

The number of students seeking medical excuses for finals has more than doubled in the last five years--up from 382 in 1972-73 to 858 last year--and the College administration is getting worried.

Administrators agree that students aren't any sicker now than they used to be. Epidemics are no more common, and there has not been a huge jump in psychiatric excuses.

What seems to be happening. Dean Fox said this week, is that students seek excuses when they're feeling slightly under the weather, instead of using the absence slip as the abnormal route it once was.

Students may not agree with Fox that everyone who gets a medical excuse is really sick. Last spring, a new phrase entered undergraduate vocabulary: "punting," or postponing an exam until the make-up date, in the hope they will do better if they take it at a time when they don't have to worry about other courses.

That theory probably doesn't hold water, Dean K. Whitla, director of the Office of Tests, said this week. Once a course is over, students tend to forget the material: in addition, they often have four new courses taking up their energy, and they have a hard time concentrating on things they learned six months before.

The problem is to devise a system that differentiates between students who are malingering and those who are really sick, which UHS physicians say they are reluctant to try to do on their own. No one has any concrete proposals yet for a policy that will take the weight off UHS, but chances are they will--before the January exam period.