Is Menstrual Leave the Final Solution?
The current school policy regarding menstrual leave of female students is causing many to debate whether relying on one’s conscience to keep track of attendance records is deemed fair. So what is the best way to curb issues regarding the policy?
Dysmenorrhea, more commonly referred to as period pain, has always been an ambiguous medical condition. The degree of pain varies so much from person to person that it could be severe enough to hamper the daily activities of 20 percent of women, whereas it may not occur at all for others. Despite the variance, it is for this 20 percent who experience disadvantages in schools and workplaces that menstrual leave must exist. However, due to the obscurity of the level of pain and the possibility of abuse, it has always been an issue wherever it was implemented. The same conflict occurred in KAIST, where the policy is at a trial operation this semester.
According to last year’s Undergraduate Student Council PUUM, which started pushing the policy forward two semesters ago, period pains cannot be covered by sick leave, and due to the lack of clear standards, there have been administrative difficulties when they were to be approved as unofficial illness absences. This truly is harsh for students who physically cannot attend their lectures and still have to lose attendance points. As to prove the need for this policy, a survey carried out in April 2017 revealed that about 90% of the respondents were in favor of its implementation.
However, although a female student myself, I could not be entirely glad about the new policy in the beginning knowing that a dispute would arise. Sure enough, when it was confirmed to run on a trial this semester, KaDaejeon, a Facebook confessions page for the KAIST community, was covered with posts voicing opinions and concerns from both sides. The hole in this policy is that it runs completely on one’s conscience. The biggest apprehension regarding this issue, therefore, is the possibility of abuse. Whether a student is really menstruating cannot be disproved, and even if she was, her dysmenorrhea may be tolerable, or merely cause discomfort. For this reason, some argue that the policy is unfair. Female students could take advantage of it on any day they wish to, and people who are sick for a different reason that are in just as much pain would still have to visit the hospital for a proper medical certificate.
Nevertheless, students missing a class have no direct effect on the others taking the same course. The one person who is definitely disadvantaged is the student herself. She has more to catch up on and has missed the in-class interaction, which is essential for some courses. Also, with the limited number of sick leaves available per class, using a sick leave for a condition that occurs every month takes away the chances for the student to stay away for other illnesses. Additionally, depending on the standards of the professor, period pains are often rejected as a justification for sick leave, and the student would have no other choice but to let it affect her attendance grade.
As much as the policy is indispensable, and as much as the policy is dependent on the students’ honesty, what we female students need to recognize is the weight of our responsibility. For the policy to stay in place for those who experience severe dysmenorrhea, those who do not go through the same level of pain — yet as people who understand and share the same kind of discomfort — should refrain from taking advantage of it. There is no perfect system that could possibly bring everyone satisfaction, since it would always have to involve trust to some degree. But what we have now is only on a trial run and conceivably has much to improve. What I’m trying to say is, give us a shot.