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By Matthew Albright, guest columnist
There’s no way to get around it – swine flu is spreading, making its mark on campuses all over the nation. As students, staff, faculty and administration come to grips with this harsh fact, it’s important that panic not set in.
H1N1 is gathering a rather nasty reputation through widespread media coverage and rampant word-of-mouth. But the disease has so far been less deadly than the standard flu that wreaks havoc on a fairly regular basis.
There’s a huge difference between caution and paranoia. The simple fact is swine flu shouldn’t interrupt anybody’s life in any meaningful way. This applies to academic life as well as simple personal interactions.
In a classroom environment, the balance between health precautions and maintaining a brisk academic environment is especially difficult to create. Classrooms often present the perfect environment for disease to spread. Hundreds of students sit for an hour in close proximity to each other. An hour later a whole different bunch settles into those same seats. And let’s not forget the lovely fact that H1N1 can survive on surfaces — such as a desk or chair in a classroom — for two to eight hours, according to the CDC.
As disconcerting as these facts may seem, it would be irresponsible for professors to use swine flu as an excuse to limit class time.
Obviously, proceeding with business as usual is not the answer. Professors need to remain alert to possible sicknesses. Occasional reminders about prevention and recognition of transmission are useful. It’s also imperative that professors keep their policies on absences fluid.
Instead, it’s the students’ responsibility to not just follow common caution in keeping themselves healthy, but to monitor themselves to make sure they’re not getting sick. If students make it clear to a professor that they are feeling flu-like symptoms, they should stay at home so as not to infect the rest of the class. Professor should be flexible enough to understand.
One thing is for certain – classes shouldn’t be canceled. Even students who have only been at college for two days know the reason, because virtually every professor talks about it on the first day of class: SOMEBODY is paying for your education, and loss of teaching time equals less value for the dollar.
That’s not fair for anyone. It’s essential that the important business of learning continues unabated.
Matthew Albright is a junior at the Louisiana State University.
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