Medical Leaves of Absence and College-initiated Leaves of Absence

To best serve the physical and mental health needs of students, Connecticut College provides health and counseling services. Some students, however, may have medical or psychological conditions that significantly limit their ability to function successfully or safely in their role as students. In such cases, a student may request voluntary medical leave to allow them to receive treatment, or the College may place students on College-initiated leave if it determines that a student poses a significant risk of harm to themself or to others and there are no reasonable accommodations by the College that will adequately mitigate the risk. This policy outlines the individualized process to be followed for both voluntary medical leave and College-initiated leave.

I. Voluntary Medical Leave

Requesting Leave: A student interested in voluntary medical leave must first meet with their Academic Dean to discuss and initiate the process. If the student is on campus, they should also meet with Student Health Services and/or Student Counseling Services (collectively the “appropriate Health Service”). If the student is not on campus, supporting documentation from a provider needs to be submitted to the appropriate Health Service. The appropriate Health Service will make a decision regarding the validity of the request for a medical leave and forward this to the Academic Dean, who is responsible for granting voluntary medical leaves of absence. The exit process will proceed as quickly as possible to allow the student to step away from College life and receive necessary support. Under certain circumstances, the student may be put on a temporary leave so that the student can leave the campus while the College collects all necessary documentation to support the student’s full medical leave.  The student will receive a letter from the Academic Dean confirming the voluntary medical leave and documenting the return from leave requirements.

Students at Connecticut College may be assigned Temporary Withdrawal status if they are absent from the College pending the receipt of documentation for a Student-Initiated Medical Leave. In cases of temporary withdrawal, the College will notify students in writing that they have been placed on this interim status pending final leave/withdrawal/readmission. A student on temporary withdrawal is subject to the same rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations that apply to students taking voluntary withdrawal. Students on temporary withdrawal may not participate in College activities until they have been readmitted.

Effect of Leave.  The following terms generally apply during a student’s voluntary medical leave, depending on the student’s individual circumstances:

  • Incomplete courses. When a student is unable to complete the semester for medical reasons and obtains a voluntary medical leave, the transcript will show a "W" in lieu of a letter grade for each course begun that semester.
  • Financial Aid and Tuition Refund. Students who receive financial aid need to contact the Office of Financial Aid to understand how the leave may impact their financial aid obligations.  If a student is eligible for a tuition refund, it will be made in accordance with the College’s tuition refund policy and schedule.
  • Tuition insurance. Tuition insurance, for students who have it, may apply to medical leave, as per decision of the Tuition Insurance Company.
  • Class Registration and Housing Lottery.  The student will be eligible to pre-register for classes from home at the same time as on-campus students are pre-registering. The student will also be able to participate in the housing lottery or to apply for housing along with other returning students. The pre-registration and housing lottery process ensures that students on medical leave will not be at a disadvantage when they return, but is separate from the reinstatement process.

The deadlines for these opportunities are as follows. Fall semester: If the student intends to return for the fall semester, they must notify their academic dean of their intent to return before the end of the spring semester pre-registration period. Spring semester: If the student intends to return for the spring semester, they must notify their academic dean of their intent to return by the end of the fall pre-registration period. If the student does not meet these deadlines, they must register for classes during the add/delete period after the semester begins.

  • Courses at other institutions. Under ordinary circumstances and after consultation with the student’s academic dean, they will be allowed to take courses elsewhere during voluntary medical leave. With the prior approval of the registrar and upon successful completion of those courses, they will be able to transfer the credits to Connecticut College.

  • Disciplinary Proceedings. Placement on voluntary medical leave is not disciplinary in nature and not part of the student conduct process.  However, there may be situations when a student requesting a voluntary medical leave may also have violated the Student Code of Conduct. In those instances, the College can initiate the student conduct process.  Students may not go on leave or withdraw from the college before the resolution of a student conduct violation unless they are granted permission by the Dean of Students.   In such circumstances, the student’s return to the College may be contingent upon the completion of student conduct proceedings.

  • Campus Activities. The student on leave may not participate in College activities until the first official day of the academic semester when the student is permitted to return, unless given express permission by the Dean of Students.

Return Following Leave. When the student is ready to return to college, the student should give the student’s provider(s) the Treating Provider Instruction sheet (below) as a guide for the letter(s) that must be submitted on the student’s behalf.

  • Please note that an Exchange of Information form (see below to select the most appropriate form) will need to be filled out for (1) the provider(s), (2) the Dean of Students, and (3) the Academic Dean for communications to occur with the College’s appropriate Health Service.

  • The Exchange of Information form(s) must then be submitted to the appropriate department (Student Health Services or Student Counseling Services).

These documents need to be sent 21 days prior to the student’s anticipated return to college. If paperwork is not received within this timeframe, the student may not be permitted to return at that time.

 Forms for the student to sign and submit to allow for communication about readiness to return to college (whichever is most applicable):

Forms for the student to provide to their treating provider(s) to guide the providers in preparing letter documenting student’s readiness to return to college:

Treating Provider Instruction sheet (Student Health Services)
Treating Provider Instruction sheet (Student Counseling Services)

  • Provider(s) name, credentials, address, fax, phone and email address (no relatives will be accepted as providers)
  • Length and type of treatment 
  • Diagnosis
  • Prognosis 
  • Current medications 
  • Recent history of success with employment and/or academics 
  • Assessment of ability to participate in college life, including academic, housing, social activities, etc. 
  • Recommended accommodations 
  • Recommendations regarding continued health treatment and medication

The letter from the home provider should be returned to the appropriate Health Service Director. Upon receipt of this written information, the appropriate Health Service Director (or designee) may contact the provider for follow-up. Information needed to determine whether to approve return from leave will then be forwarded to the appropriate Academic Dean and the Dean of Students.  The Academic Dean will make the decision and send the student approval to return from leave, along with any other information needed for the student’s return. An interview with the appropriate Health Service will be required on return to college.

II. College-initiated Leave

Under certain circumstances, the College may place students on College-initiated medical leave if it determines that a student poses a significant risk of harm to themself or to others, and there are no reasonable accommodations by the College that will adequately mitigate the risk. The College will make that determination consistent with state and federal disability law.   

When a student’s conduct poses a threat of harm to themselves or others that cannot be adequately mitigated, they may be placed on interim leave while the College determines whether College-initiated leave is warranted.

When a college-initiated medical leave is under consideration, the student may request to take a voluntary medical leave in lieu of the college-initiated leave. In such circumstances, the Dean of Students must determine whether to grant permission for the voluntary medical leave, based on the standards and procedures in this policy for Voluntary Medical Leave.  A student may not take a voluntary leave or withdraw from the college before the resolution of student conduct violations unless the Dean of Students has granted permission.  In such circumstances, the student’s return to the College may be contingent upon the completion of student conduct proceedings and any discipline imposed.

The decision by the Dean of Students to place a student on College-initiated medical leave  will be based on an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, and may be made in consultation with the CARE Team and health professionals, as appropriate under the circumstances. This policy outlines an individualized process that the College will follow with regard to College-initiated medical leave.

Factors to Be Considered. The factors to be considered may vary, based on the individual circumstances of the student, but ordinarily will include: (1) the nature of the student’s conduct and health condition; (2) the nature, duration and severity of the risks posed by the student’s conduct and/or condition, including the risk of harm to the student or others; and (3) and whether reasonable modifications of College policies, practices or procedures will mitigate those risks. Reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden the College’s resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that the College’s appropriate Health Service(s) or the staff of a residential college can reasonably be expected to provide.

Disciplinary Action.  Placement on College-initiated medical leave is not disciplinary in nature and not part of the student conduct process.  However, there may be situations in which the student conduct that gave rise to College-initiated medical leave also warrants conduct action for violations of the Student Code of Conduct. In those situations, the College may pursue conduct action, consistent with the College’s student conduct policies, and the student’s return to the College may be contingent upon the completion of the student conduct proceedings and any sanctions imposed in those proceedings.  If, during a student conduct hearing, a student introduces evidence of a mental health or behavioral disorder that poses a significant risk to self or others, the Dean of Students may initiate procedures to determine whether a College-initiated medical leave is warranted.  The College may impose an interim suspension if a student engages in conduct that violates the Student Code of Conduct and there is a reasonable belief that the student poses a legitimate safety concern or is a threat to the health and/or safety of any member of the community.

a.         Procedures to initiate leave

The Dean of Students (or designee) may initiate these procedures to determine the need for a College-initiated leave, based on an individualized assessment of the student and the case. The CARE Team will ordinarily provide the Dean of Students with an assessment of the student’s behaviors, conduct, and other information relevant to the risks to the student and others. The Dean of Students (or designee) will make the final determination.  The student will be provided a copy of this policy at the time these procedures are initiated.

The Dean of Students may recommend, or require, that a student be evaluated by an independent licensed mental health professional chosen by the College, in order to assist the Dean in making an informed determination of whether a College-initiated leave is warranted. If the Dean requires such an evaluation, the Dean will inform the student in writing. The evaluation must be completed within the time frame set in the referral letter, unless the Dean of Students (or designee) grants an extension. A student who fails to complete the evaluation in accordance with these standards and procedures, and/or who fails to give permission for the evaluation results to be shared with appropriate administrators, may be subject to College-initiated leave until the Dean can obtain the proper evaluations of the student.

If leave is required, the Dean of Students will render a written decision within two business days, barring unusual circumstances, stating the rationale for their determination. The decision will be delivered to the student directly, electronically and/or by certified mail. If the determination is made that leave is warranted, the notification will include information regarding the minimum length of the leave, as well as any conditions of reinstatement. The student on leave may not participate in College activities until the first official day of the academic semester when the student is permitted to return unless given express permission by the Dean of Students, as appropriate and as outlined in the notice of College-initiated leave.

b.         Appeals process

A student subject to College-initiated leave may petition to the Dean of the College to review that determination, in accordance with the following process:

1.  The student must petition the Dean of the College within three (3) business days of receipt of the decision.

2. All petitions must be in writing and delivered to the Dean of the College (or designee).  The following are the only grounds for review:

  • To consider new information that was unavailable at the time of the original evaluation and that could be outcome determinative;
  • To assess whether a material deviation from written procedures affected the fairness or outcome of the decision;
  • To decide if a College-initiated leave is inappropriate based on the evidence of the nature, duration, and/or severity of the risk or threat or evidence that reasonable accommodations might sufficiently mitigate the risk without a leave;
  • To assess whether bias on the part of a College member involved in the decision-making process deprived the process of impartiality.

Except as required to explain the basis of new information unavailable at the time, the review will be limited to the record and/or all supporting documents. The review and appeal decision of the Dean of the College (or designee) is final.

c.         Effect of leave

The following terms generally apply during a college-initiated leave, depending on the student’s individual circumstances:

  • Incomplete courses. When a student is unable to complete the semester for medical reasons, the transcript will show a "W" in lieu of a letter grade for each course begun that semester.
  • Financial Aid and Tuition Refund. Students who receive financial aid need to contact the Office of Financial Aid to understand how the leave may impact their financial aid obligations.  If a student is eligible for a tuition refund, it will be made in accordance with the College’s tuition refund policy and schedule.
  • Tuition insurance. Tuition insurance, for students who have it, may apply to leave, as per decision of the Tuition Insurance Company..
  • Class Registration and Housing Lottery.  The student will be eligible to pre-register for classes from home at the same time as on-campus students are pre-registering. The student will also be able to participate in the housing lottery or to apply for housing along with other returning students. The pre-registration and housing lottery process ensure that students on medical leave will not be at a disadvantage when they return, but is separate from the reinstatement process.

The deadlines for these opportunities are as follows. Fall semester: If the student intends to return for the fall semester, they must notify their Academic Dean of their intent to return before the end of the spring semester pre-registration period. Spring semester: If the student intends to return for the spring semester, they must notify their Academic Dean of their intent to return by the end of the fall pre-registration period. If the student does not meet these deadlines, they will have to register for classes during the add/delete period after the semester begins.

  • Courses at other institutions. Under ordinary circumstances and after consultation with the student’s academic dean, the student will be allowed to take courses elsewhere during the leave. With the prior approval of the registrar and upon successful completion of those courses, they will be able to transfer the credits to Connecticut College.
  • Campus Activities. The student on leave may not participate in College activities until the first official day of the academic semester when the student is permitted to return unless given express permission by the Dean of Students, and as outlined in the notice of medical leave.

d.         Reinstatement following leave

A student seeking reinstatement following College-initiated medical leave must petition the Dean of Students and the appropriate Academic Dean and must demonstrate that the circumstances that led to the student’s leave have been satisfactorily addressed and that the student is ready to resume studies at the College. In determining whether a student should be readmitted, the College will conduct an individualized assessment of each student’s circumstances.

When the student is ready to return to college, the Treating Provider Instruction sheet (below) should be given to the student’s provider(s) as a guide for the letter(s) that must be submitted on the student’s behalf.

  • Please note that an exchange of information form (see below to select the most appropriate form) will need to be filled out for (1) the provider(s), (2) the Dean of Students, and (3) the Academic Dean for communications to occur with the College’s appropriate Health Service.
  • The exchange of information form(s) must then be submitted to the appropriate department (Student Health Services or Student Counseling Services).

These documents need to be sent 21 days prior to the student’s anticipated return to college. If paperwork is not received within this timeframe, the student may not be permitted to return at that time.

 For student to sign to allow for communication about readiness to return to college (whichever is most applicable):

For student to provide to home health provider(s) to guide letter by provider documenting student’s readiness to return to college:

Treating Provider Instruction sheet (Student Health Services)
Treating Provider Instruction sheet (Student Counseling Services)

  • Provider(s) name, credentials, address, fax, phone and email address (no relatives will be accepted as providers)
  • Length and type of treatment 
  • Diagnosis
  • Prognosis 
  • Current medications 
  • Recent history of success with employment and/or academics 
  • Assessment of ability to participate in college life, including academic, housing, social activities, etc. 
  • Recommended accommodations 
  • Recommendations regarding continued health treatment and medication

The letter from the home provider should be returned to the appropriate Health Service Director.    The student must provide permission for any medical or mental health professional that provided relevant care to the student during his or her leave to review the circumstances leading to the leave and to engage in discussion with the College and any providers assisting the Dean in determining whether reinstatement is appropriate. Upon receipt of this written information, the appropriate Health Service Director (or designee) may contact the provider for follow-up. Appropriate information regarding the student’s return will then be forwarded to the Dean of Students (or designee).   Based on the information provided, the Dean of Students will make the decision about student’s ability to return to campus. The Dean of Students may consult with the CARE Team or other health professional(s). The Dean of Students may condition the student’s return on an agreement to engage in a health/mental health assessment upon the student’s return to the College. The Dean of Students may also decide that reinstatement is not yet warranted and advise the student to petition again at a later time.

While students who apply for reinstatement generally will be permitted to return, the decision is an individualized one and reinstatement is not guaranteed.  The student will be required to have an interview with the Dean of Students or designee on return to the College.