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College Student Suffering Pregnancy Complications Denied Chance To Retake Test

By Monica Bielanko |

Pregnant student denied chance to retake test

Kimberly Harris was on her way to class to take a chemistry exam but ended up in her doctor’s office after suffering complications related to her pregnancy.

The sophomore was on the Utah State University campus preparing for the exam when she felt light-headed and dizzy.  “I’ve had problems with my heart, being pregnant. But it’s never affected my schooling”, she explains.

She mulled over the decision to go to the hospital and miss the exam. Harris has a 3.87 G.P.A and hopes to get into the university’s nursing program. This exam was an important one.  “This one in particular, because if I do apply to the nursing program,” she said, “this one will directly affect my science G.P.A, which will affect my chances of getting into the program.”

Despite the importance of the exam Harris chose to play it safe and called her husband who took her to the doctor.  It’s a good thing he did because she passed out and spent some time in the hospital.

Shortly after leaving the hospital Harris sent an email to her chemistry professor explaining why she missed the exam.

In an e-mail obtained by KSL News in Salt Lake City obtained, the professor wrote in part:

“Thank you for this message. I certainly hope that you and the baby are doing fine. Please review our syllabus course policy #3…”

The syllabus states that students need two weeks advance notice to reschedule an exam. University officials explained that includes things like school sponsored athletic events, weddings, and surgery. However, in the case of a medical emergency, students can drop one exam that will not affect their overall grade.

“A student can drop an exam with no penalty should they have to miss one,” explained Alvan Hengge, head of the university’s Chemistry & Biochemistry Department. “The information that I had from the student was that this was just a one-time event and that she would have no difficulties finishing out the rest of the course. In this case this exam wouldn’t have counted against her in any way.”

Hengge says emergency situations frequently arise among students, especially in a large class of about 180 students like the one Harris attended. Hengge feels the university made the right decision.

“That’s the policy. It’s not perfect. There’s no way to be perfect,” said Hengge.

Meanwhile, Harris says she felt like she was forced to drop the class.

“Because I am pregnant and because of the complications that I’ve already had, I’m not guaranteed that in the future I’m not going to have more complications,” said Harris. “And if they can’t work with me this time, they’re not going to work with me again.”

At this point, Utah State University says Harris has no recourse because she dropped the course.

I’m not clear why Harris dropped the course if she had – at this point – only missed the one exam and it wouldn’t have counted against her grade.

However, is this a good policy? We make all sorts of concessions in this world for people dealing with medical issues. Should a college student dealing with pregnancy complications be given special consideration or is school policy paramount?

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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “College Student Suffering Pregnancy Complications Denied Chance To Retake Test

  1. Caitlin says:

    That’s terrible! I was pregnant at BYU and all my professors were willing to work with me. I had my son in the middle of the semester, sent a quick email to my professors, and was told to stay home as long as I felt I needed to and then come back when I was ready. I took my newborn to one class all semester and no one batted an eye. My professor even asked to hold him during my final presentation.

    My sister (also at BYU) was on bed rest for pre-term labor and one of her professors came to her apartment to administer her final so she wouldn’t miss it! Her daughter was born at 34 weeks not long after.

    I think the policy sucks. I feel like if you have a documented medical emergency from a physician/ER, you should be able to retake the test. I know there are other medical emergencies, but policies such as this continue to be prohibitive to mothers in school, the work place, and government.

  2. jeneria says:

    I’m a professor and it’s hard. You want to work with students and to help them out (I violated one college’s rules several times by letting single mothers bring their kids to class when they couldn’t find babysitters) but it’s such a fine line. You can’t treat one student vastly different from the others because that’s unethical. Should pregnancy be treated differently than broken hips, broken backs, leukemia, cancer treatments, mono, etc (all of which I’ve dealt with in the student body)? In each case, I try to work with the student until it becomes obvious that the student will not be able to successfully complete the class or the work. I had a student who was on mandatory bed rest starting in week 6 of a semester. It was a speech class. This was before Skype. We talked about her videotaping herself and sending them to me, but she literally couldn’t get out of bed. I had to drop her. It was just an impossible situation.

  3. meg says:


    Here’s my issue…she was “wrapping up” that pregnancy, towards the end. Pregnancy is only a temporary thing then she can head back to school like it did. I hate the double standard that this woman had to choose between her child’s life and her future. So fun women get to make that decision. Ms. Harris is now fine and able to take the test. She proven she’s a serious student with good grade, plus she showed up to take the test in the first place.

    I think professors know which students are serious and which are flakes. They need to cut her a break and stop with the double standars. P.S. Love that athletes can delay a test because of a game or practice.

  4. jeneria says:

    Athletes can’t delay in my classes. They have to turn in all work and take all exams BEFORE they leave, the same policy for people who are missing due to travel, school functions, etc. Of course I can have that policy at my current institution because we’re Division III. When I taught at a major school in the SEC, the policies for athletes were set and handled by coaches, tutors, and advisers.

  5. Kayci says:

    The policy doesn’t seem unreasonable. I’m wondering why she would drop the class since missing the exam wouldn’t hurt her grade. It doesn’t really make sense to me. Seems like the policy is in place to help students.

  6. danielle says:

    she stated she had compications, so it would b better to drop it, cause if she didnt and she missed another test 3 weeks later…. dhe would have been droppd…

  7. Marlene says:

    The Feminist Breeder had a similar situation. It ended up the school policies were in violation of the law, which by the way, also applied to broken hips, broken backs, leukemia, cancer, mono, extra. Also there is no way you can compare a medical emergency, especially one that involved both the life of a mother and a child, to athletics and extra curricular activities.

  8. Jami says:

    I was recently kicked out of a chemistry class for fainting during the class. I was judged to be fine by medical staff and actually wanted to stay and continue the class. Unfortunately the professor told me to ‘go home and I’ll see you next semester’. As soon as I can talk about it without being an angry mess, I’m going to go talk to the Title IX expert at my school and see if it applies to this situation and what can be done about it. (I’ve already signed up for another chemistry class for this semester, but I would like to see this school have an official policy regarding pregnant students in chemistry class.)

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