AARON SKUBBY, News Editor—A recent announcement posted on MyDenison granting instructions to faculty on how to verify student flu absences has sparked some concern among students regarding their privacy. Staff from the Provost’s Office and Whisler helped ease concerns.
The Wellness Center keeps a master list of all students who have been diagnosed with the flu, which is shared with the Provost’s office, who faculty may contact if they want verification of a student illness.
Senior Associate Provost of Academic Affairs Catherine Dollard helped ease concerns about student privacy. Dollard explained that “We do not require faculty to seek such verification. Faculty are directed only to inquire to our office regarding a student’s flu status if students themselves have informed their faculty of such a diagnosis. Because informing faculty about their health status is ultimately in the hands of students, we do not see a potential privacy violation as emerging from the process.”
The list of students suffering from the flu is confidential, available only to Whisler staff and select staff from the Provost’s office. Names will only be shared when faculty specifically inquire.
Dollard further explained that “while students are advised to alert instructors, they are not required to do so. The advice is based on facilitating each student’s return to health and managing their classwork. Both the Office of the Provost and the Wellness Center welcome student questions about the flu verification practice. It is intended to support students and we are open to hearing suggestions and concerns.”
Associate Director of Health Services Michelle Barcelona explained that part of the protocol is “students also sign a release of information that allows us to share their name and flu diagnosis with the Provost Office, Dining Services, and the Dean of Students. On this release,” she continued, “they also provide a friend’s name that will be picking up food from dining halls to bring back to the students room. The ill student will give their card to the friend to swipe at the dining hall.”
This is the third year that such protocols have been enacted. During the first few cases of the flu, students are verified by testing. However, after a large number of incidents of the flu students will be considered to have the flu based on symptoms.
This is common practice at most health centers, Barcelona explained. Students can still receive a flu test if requested.
Students suffering from the flu are encouraged to avoid eating in the dining hall or attending class or events until they have been flu free for 24 hours.