TORRIA CATRONE, Asst. Arts & Life Editor—Just when I thought my first semester as a student at Denison couldn’t get any further from traditional, I got sick.
One morning about a month ago, I woke up with dramatically swollen lymph nodes and other symptoms which combined to make me feel like I had been hit by a truck. Knowing that if I filled out the symptom screening survey truthfully I would be automatically stuck with a red badge, I called the Wellness Center. I spoke to a nurse, who recommended that I come to Whisler Hall and be rapid-tested for mononucleosis and strep throat. Told to sit outside of the building, I was given the tests through an open window as though it was a fast-food drive-thru. Both came back negative, meaning that the next step was to be tested for COVID-19. I was placed in quarantine on campus immediately, where I stayed for over 30 hours without any treatment. Once I received my negative result, I was finally able to see my own doctor and get help. I was retested for mono with a more comprehensive blood test, which came back positive and also indicated that I was experiencing associated hepatitis. I felt horrible.
Classes and homework were the last things on my mind. Thankfully, since I live so close to campus, I was able to go home for about two weeks in order to recover. Still, I was struggling to keep up. Mono struck me down at the same time as midterms. The majority of my professors were very flexible and understanding, giving me extra time and other accommodations. However, one of my professors was not budging on the due date of a long midterm paper that I was not well enough to complete on time. My mental capacity was barely enough for bad reality TV shows on TLC, let alone a labor-intensive paper over a heavy topic. The professor ended up granting me a two day extension, but tacked on penalties for it being “late” despite my condition. I stood to lose points on both my midterm and final grade, and this was even before the grading of the essay. Frustrated, I reached out to Mark Moller, the Dean of First-Year Students. He was sympathetic, and contacted my professor in order to advocate for me and ask that I be given extra time without penalty. My professor would not bend, and I had no other reasonable option than to drop the class.
Unfortunately, Denison lacks a universal policy to protect sick students in situations such as this. This is especially concerning given the current COVID-19 pandemic, which, if contracted, could cause a student to be incapacitated in a manner similar to mine or more severe.
At Denison, there is an expectation of communication between students and professors as well as a certain level of flexibility which should, in theory, supersede the need for a blanket policy. However, when a student is asked to prioritize an academic assignment over their own health and recovery, this seems to indicate an issue.
Furthermore, I am lucky to have my home so close to the Hill. I wonder how the university would support another student in my situation if they were unable to see their primary care physician or spend time at home to recover, especially since nothing was done by the school to really treat me.
I am disappointed as to how the situation was handled in some respects, but grateful for the support I did receive. Hopefully, my story helps to illuminate an oversight in support for sick students at Denison.
Torria Catrone ‘24 is a PPE major from New Albany, OH.