Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Periodic extension

This one's been percolating since before the Disarming Cat Bite Debacle of 2009, but I still haven't worked out quite how to put it right, so bear with me.
Should difficult menstruation be a valid, indeed accepted, reason to apply for an extension for an essay, or similar?
Initially this seemed to me to be a bit of a radical, out-there, idea, but within a mere 30 seconds I'd changed my mind. For those women whose periods are accompanied by severe cramps, pain, headaches, discomfort and other un-niceties, why shouldn't they be able to get an extension in the same way as an asthmatic who was struggling with a high pollen count?

I guess part of the issue comes with the necessity to get a medical certificate to back the claim for an extension up? Not sure how many of our readers have assignments that they have to submit by deadlines, usually in the context of study. Whether you are in this boat or paddle a different waka, I'd be interested in your views.


Deborah said...

I'm fine with giving students extensions, as long as they get a certificate from their doctor or from Student Counselling or Student Health or whatever. It gives me a paper trail to justify the extension, and it means that I don't end up making capricious decisions about which students deserve extensions and which don't.

Anonymous said...

As an academic I direct all students wanting an extension due to medical grounds to Student Health. As Deborah says, this provides a paper trail and takes the decision making role out of my hands.
But the problem I see with giving an extension to someone who has a terrible time with her periods (luckily I've managed to avoid that, just a few painful stabs of pain which pass quickly), is that you know (roughly) when your period is going to be and you work around that. It is not a surprise that you are going to experience problems. The exception would be say if you had an assignment with a very short turn around time, ie a take home exam with only 24 hours to do it which was right in the middle of when you were debilitated.
About extensions generally, I used to start of my lectures saying that "You all know the date when the assignment is due in, so if you know your grandmother is going to die around this time, then make sure you do get onto your assignement and finish it early." The students in the classes always laughed heartily, but I stopped saying it because I knew at some stage someones grandmother would die...
Also, as most school teachers, academics and administrators etc will testify, it is often the same people asking for extensions, it doesn't do them much good getting an extension as this impacts upon assignments that are due in later, compounding the problem for them.
Finally, I know of many students who have had terrible obstacles in the way of completing assignments, but they have still got them in on time, whereas others with no excuses want extensions.
Two of the worst blow ups I have seen at University occured with a course coordinator agreeing to extend the date an assignment was due in just because a student had convinced the lecturer that they needed more time so therefore all students would be pleased to have more time. The students who had worked their guts out to get it done on time were outraged...

Maia said...

As a tutor I go with what the course co-ordinator. And given any leniency I say yes to all extension requests.

I have to say sending extension requests to student health make student health a terrible place to go if you actually need medical care around that time of year. I once waited a week for an appointment for an infected cyst that hurt every time I moved.

Anonymous - I completely disagree with the 'women know when periods are' position. Firstly because it's wrong, some women have regular periods and regular symptoms, but a long way from all do. Secondly, because I think accomodations should be available for those who need them, not just for those for whom they are a surprise.

I think the bigger problem is that most women wouldn't feel comfortable or as if they deserved an extension. Period problems are not, in most circles, a legitimate thing to even talk about, let alone have accomodations made for.

As someone who has suffered very serious side effects with her period - that silencing and lack of provision made things much harder. It's not just in University, obviously, five days sick leave doesn't go well into twelve. It's one of the examples of the way our society is structured around a mythical body that isn't the reality for most people. And it doesn't take into account the variations people experience.

Azlemed said...

my sister has pcos therefore her cycle can be very irregular and is very painful, even working she has to take time off for one day of her cycle.

I am lucky that mine didnt get in the way much when studying and cos I was on the pill I would skip it if it was around exam time. But even that doesnt solve the problem for everybody.

Its difficult to say how it should be treated in an academic situation. but getting medical certificates is a good idea.

The ex-expat said...

I officially had menstruation leave in Korea... but nobody deared use it.

And yes sometimes even us with regular cycles need time off on the odd occasion when the symptoms get really, really bad.

Boganette said...

I have endometriosis and so periods are (well were) super painful. When I was at Uni I gave a note from my specialist to my lecturers and that explained that I might need time off/extensions etc.

I got one comment questioning whether 'period pain' was really that big of a deal. I just told them to talk to my doctor.

I ended up having to have more surgery while at Uni anyway and I think that's the only time I had off. As did another girl in my classes - she had endo as well.

Now I'm on the injection* to stop them completely. I can't handle periods anymore. They're too painful. And it's not worth living your life being in tremendous pain every month. Though people still say it's just 'period pain' I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

*Feel free to lecture me on the injection but I will totally ignore anything anybody says about it. It's been a lifesaver for me and I could care less whether you think I'm going to get every type of cancer from it.

Anonymous said...

Many problems I've seen with students struggling to get work in on time have involved them going on holiday (normally overseas) during the time they should have been working on an dissertation etc. Should those students be granted an extension to compensate for the time they missed? The answer is surely no.
Quite simply it defies belief to grant extension requests blindly. Also, at my University staff (even course co-ordinators) are no longer permitted to grant extensions, they have to be authorised by someone higher up.

Moz said...

I have no problem at all with anything that someone has a medical certificate for. Once it's bad enough to soak up the couple of days padding that smart students allow for contingencies it's got to be bad.

I'm bad for this stuff, I know. I handed in my masters project almost on time despite more than a couple of weeks lost when I broke my arm. A week after the originally scheduled time IIRC.

Think of it as preparation for paid employment. My partner's boss has lost a couple of jobs this year by submitting tenders after the due date. No extension there, whatever your excuse.

katy said...

Like the ex-expat, I had "menstrual leave" in my contract when I worked as a public servant in Japan. It is standard.

Anon, I have to agree with the others that menstruation isn't predictable for all women in terms of frequency and effect. I know that my periods are usually fine in that they don't make me feel too bad but occasionally I will get one that knocks me out, and it is usually if there are other stressful things going on. I think it is useful to understand this!

Anonymous said...

As a demonstrator at university I always err on the side of generous when granting extensions - medical certificate = extension (and often times asking nicely will get you one too). In our lab, reports are due weekly, however we tell the 3rd years that they have to learn to manage their own time and all they are missing out on is regular feedback if they choose to hand things up late/not 'til the end of the year so there is no advantage to them.

I take the view that everyone will have stuff they need to deal with at some point and a bit of tolerance/empathy goes along way.

Anonymous said...

I would be happy to give anyone in my office a "pass" or extension who wanted to use their period as a reason as to why they were unable to perform to a standard those who did not get periods have to attain or live by.

Just so long as everyone who thinks this is a valid reason also accepts that I will not hire women as I know that, every month for several days, they will be unproductive and unable to perform to an acceptable standard.

Let's be frank; if you have two almost identically suited candidates and the only difference......