Health center struggling to keep pace with sick notes

Officials at Mary Walker are fighting a two-front war against the flu, with nurses trying to help students overcome by illness just to remain hampered by professors’ requests for students to obtain written documentation of their illness.

"The fact is that many professors are sending students back to Mary Walker once they feel better for a piece of documentation stating that they were sick," said Jean Grant, director of student health services at Walker Health Center. "We want to see sick people not people who are already feeling better."

Though professors want proof of illness, Mary Walker prefers that students with minor flu symptoms stay indoors and battle it with over-the-counter medication until they feel well enough to return to class so the center can focus on the seriously ill students.

Keeping isolated from one another gone," Camp said.

If approved, the plan proposed by Paterson would reduce SUNY funding by 11 percent.

"Public higher education in New York State has been cut more severely than any other state agency," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress during a rally at Hunter College on Oct. 27.

Nicholas Lyons, Oswego State’s vice president of administration and finance, said the cuts have been so deep because "we’re one of the largest state agencies and we have the ability to charge for our services."

Students are reacting to Gov. Paterson’s proposed plan in the legislature, which would likely necessitate another tuition increase. But so far, their advocacy has been tepid at best.

"I don’t get financial aid, so it’s going to be hard for me," said sophomore psychology major Serena McGrath.

"As it is, I will have to work three jobs over the summer to afford to come back here [in fall of 2010]," said Melanie Farnham, a freshman adolescent education major.

In concert with other SUNY student associations across the state, Oswego State’s Student Association has taken the lead in fighting the tuition increase on campus. They recently held a rally in the Campus Center Food Court intended to spur student action, but only 20 people showed up, according to those in attendance.

However, S.A. officials have been much more successful with a petition strategy. In past weeks, they have set up tables in the Campus Center and solicited signatures and information to launch an e-mail campaign. Signatures from Oswego State students have joined more than 14,000 from public universities across the state, S.A. Vice President Stefen Short said. The petitions have since been sent to Gov. Paterson.

Faculty and administration are not about to take Gov. Paterson’s proposed cuts lying down.

Oswego State President Deborah Stanley remains in contact with legislators to advocate for less steep cuts, Lyons said.

Faculty Assembly is also looking for ways to cut costs on campus, Camp said. She said they were looking at conserving books and software, as well as using grants to apply for additional funding.

Camp said that filling up classes is another cost-saver. Classes with fewer students fail to maximize on the cost of putting them on each semester. Camp said she would work to lower the number of classes with less than 10 students.

Meanwhile, a committee of both Oswego State faculty and students is being established to find creative solutions for the potential tuition increase.