News  McGill to temporarily change sick-note policy

McGill will officially announce this week that it is relaxing its medical-note policy in light of a large amount of possible absences due to the H1N1 virus. A self-reporting system will be available on Minerva, which will serve as an acceptable document for absences up to nine days for class and assignments, and seven days for pratica, fieldwork, and placements, according to Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning).

Wayne Wood, the Associate Director for Environmental Health and Safety and chair of the Pandemic Contingency Planning Committee, explained that the policy was enacted as part of the University’s efforts to contain the virus.

“We don’t want to send people out there who are sick and infect others,” Wood said.

Mendelson explained that although cases of the flu are not yet prevalent, McGill set up the system, in part, to gain information on the spread of the flu.

“We have the self-report in play before we have lots and lots of sick students. By having a self-report, it allows us to better track cases, and estimate how prevalent flu is on campus,” Mendelson said.

Rebecca Dooley, SSMU VP University Affairs, who also sits on the Pandemic Contingency Planning Committee, explained that the committee is focused on ensuring that McGill’s response to the virus will be effective and dynamic during the flu season.

“A lot of the planning was around how do we make ourselves flexible, and how do we make our courses flexible. So that if a professor gets sick, if a student gets sick, it doesn’t throw everybody completely off track,” Dooley said. “It was understood that there would definitely be a point where there would be a spike in cases, and we would have to move to an honour-system.”

Dooley explained that there were some difficulties dealing with specific labour laws, but the committee felt the notion of flexibility was essential.

“Everybody would say, at least once at every meeting, in the event of a pandemic, you have to be flexible, you have to make sacrifices,” Dooley said.

Though Mendelson said the new self-reporting policy is only temporary, Dooley stated that she hopes the practice of encouraging professors to have more frequent and varying examinations during regular flu season would become common practice once H1N1 has passed.