Opinion

Students shouldn’t risk failing because of a family death

Those of us who have grieved the death of a family member know the distressing effects it has on our health triangle.

Our health triangle consists of mental, physical and social well-being.

Each one influences the other two. You don’t need a degree in health sciences to understand the incredibly painful toll the death of a loved one has on people.

When you lose a loved one, you become a raisin drying up in the sun.

The least of your concerns are school or work. It’s hard enough for our brains to remain robust and to be full of energy when we are going about our everyday lives, so adding the burden of a recently deceased family member or loved one is a weight few have the urge to fight.

Imagine walking up to your professor and being told that you can’t make up the exam you missed, even in the extreme case of a relative’s funeral that was held the same day. Not all professors are like this, but their diverse opinions on the issue are reflected in their syllabi.

People should feel comfortable in expressing emotional reactions to the loss of a loved one and miss a day of class without being frowned upon by their instructors.

We live in a world where so many emotions are suppressed, and we are supposed to pretend everything is OK when it most certainly is not.

It’s healthy for humans to let their emotions run in a safe and appropriate manner. It’s not unreasonable to expect professors at the very least to help work around your situation.

Professors must realize that in such situations, their exam is not exactly the priority for the student, nor should it be.

Some professors ask their student why they didn’t tell them a month ago that the funeral would be on exam day. Well, to be frank, the person wasn’t dead yet.

A close friend shared with me a situation where her professor acted as if her grandpa’s sudden death was nothing more than an inconvenience to his exam.

She attempted to reach out to him promptly about it, and, days later, his response informed her that it would be in her best interest to take the exam with the class, during her grandfather’s funeral service.

Let’s not forget that missing an exam and having a professor tell you that you can’t make it up could be the difference between passing and failing. No professor should watch a student fail because their exam conflicts with a loved one’s death.

I understand that professors want to be fair with all students and consistent with their rules. Why should one student receive special favors because they missed a class? However, in this case, it’s not fair.

Professors don’t make these rules to be strict – they make these rules to be fair. They make these rules to prevent students from asking for special favors and receiving preferential treatment. T

hey make these rules with good intentions, but it is not reflected that way. There are exceptions to these rules that some professors fail to recognize, respect and appreciate.

A reasonable concern, however, is a situation in which a student intentionally cheats the system, such as lying about the death or exaggerating their relationship with that person.

A parallel can be drawn to high school students asking to use the bathroom. Sure, they could be going there just to take a break from class and play on their phone in a bathroom stall, but this is none of the teacher’s concern.

Like using the bathroom at a high school, there is an honor system involved with missing your exam for a family death. The professors have no business questioning someone’s reason for attending a funeral of a family member.

Yes, it is their class and their exam, but it is presumptuous of them to assume they can dictate a student’s personal affairs in a time of grief and despair with the consequence of a zero for the exam if not in attendance.

We students must advocate for ourselves in these situations.

We work hard and pay thousands of dollars for our education, and if missing an exam because of our family member’s funeral is seen by some professors as inexcusable, then stand up and call out the injustice.

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1 reply »

  1. This hit very close to home for me. While attending SVSU my mom and only living parent passed away unexpectedly. I was at the hospital with her for a week and then needed to take time off for her funeral. Upon my return, most of my professors were very understanding. But one did not let me make up anything, failed me on two exams, and told me to drop the class due to my lack of commitment. I’ll never forget it! It was a very tough time and made it even harder.

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