Doctors’ notes leave faculty at a loss

Lack of policy creates confusion around the issue

Students pass by a hands sanitizer dispenser. Photo by Rena Medow.
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Reported by Rena Medow

Most doctors’ notes brought in by Langara students are authentic, yet some are forged by students looking to avoid exams or handing in assignments, according to a department chair.

And the lack of a definitive policy around doctors’ notes at the college has some instructors and students feeling at a loss.

“You start questioning the authenticity of all of them, because you start seeing runs of fake notes. That’s not really the kind of relationship that I want to have with my students and in my teaching,” said Melissa Roberts, criminal justice department chair.

Langara lacking policy

The college doesn’t have a policy for doctor’s notes, leaving each department to create their own practice around student absences, according to Maggie Ross, the director of student conduct and judicial affairs.

“Langara does give consideration to exceptional circumstances beyond a student’s control that significantly affect a student’s ability to meet requirements of a course,” Ross said. “Such circumstances may include those related to a student’s physical or psychological health verifiable and documented by an appropriate professional.”

Michele Bowers, the department chair of counselling, says Langara’s counselling services are always in high demand.

“Anxiety is probably the top reason why students book appointments with counselors,” Bowers said.

Bower said the forging of doctor’s notes is an issue that speaks to the complexity of student life.

One reason a student might forge a doctor’s note is because it is a service that is not covered by the BC Medical Services Plan. In the Doctors of BC fee guide, the recommended charge for a doctor’s note is $43.90.

Some departments in Langara don’t accept doctor’s notes at all, preferring the honour system.

“I have never agreed to even look at one of these notes. I usually tell students, quite pointedly, “that was a waste of money,” said Wayne Henry, a philosopher instructor.

Alternative to notes

The University of Calgary is one of several post-secondary institutions in Canada to implement statutory declaration forms as an alternative to doctor’s notes.

“Students were having trouble getting appointments during midterms and final exams because there were so many people just trying to get notes,” said Debbie Bruckner, the senior director of student wellness at the University of Calgary.

According to Bruckner, self-declaration forms have lifted the administrative toll on doctors, and students are happy with the new system.

 

Listen to some of the excuses students give for missing class at Langara:

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