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Involuntary Leave of Absence and Return Policy

Emory University is committed to the safety, health and well-being of the campus community. The University recognizes that students may experience situations that significantly limit their ability to function successfully or safely in their role as students. In such circumstances, students should consider requesting a leave of absence. A leave of absence permits students to take a break from the University and their studies, so that they may address the issues that led to the need for the leave, and later return to the University with an enhanced opportunity to achieve their educational goals. Full information about voluntary leaves of absence (for any reason) are available from individual schools and programs. Students will be given the option to take a voluntary leave of absence before a decision is made with respect to an involuntary leave. If the decision about an involuntary leave of absence occurs during a semester, a student will be required to take a full withdrawal from courses; if the decision is between semesters, this process takes place without withdrawal from classes. The process of an involuntary leave of absence is an administrative process, not a disciplinary process. It is intended to address the needs of a student and the student’s ability to undertake fully a role as a student and member of the community. The length of the leave of absence is determined on an individual basis and there is no standard duration to a leave of absence.

A leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, is intended to be a temporary separation. The University is fully committed to working with a student towards return to the community. Through the process of readmission, the University will support the student in reestablishing eligibility for financial aid and other community resources.


A. Process

An involuntary leave of absence is rare and is instituted when other reasonable and available options have been considered and the student declines, verbally or through inaction, to take a voluntary leave of absence.

The academic associate dean in the student’s academic school (or appropriate individual designated by the school if the title differs) has the authority to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence in the following circumstances:

  • Where current knowledge about the individual’s medical condition and/or the best available objective evidence indicates that a student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of a member of the University community,
  • Where a student is unable or unwilling to carry out substantial self-care obligations and poses a significant risk to their own safety not based on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations,
  • Or where a student’s behavior severely disrupts the University environment, and the student does not want to take a voluntary leave.
In situations involving an imminent or ongoing threat of harm to the student or any other member of the University community, the academic associate dean, in the exercise of the Dean’s reasonable judgment, may require a student to be immediately prohibited from entering Emory’s campus or facilities utilized for University programs or activities while the individualized assessment and review are taking place. Such students will receive the written notice described below.

Consistent with Emory’s Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment policy and other applicable policies, Emory prohibits unlawful discrimination on the basis of any type of disability or any other characteristic protected by applicable law in the administration of the University’s programs and activities. Emory offers a range of resources, support services and accommodations to address the physical and mental health needs of students. However, on rare occasion, a student’s needs may require a level of care that exceeds the care the University can appropriately provide. Before placing any student on an involuntary leave of absence, Emory will conduct an individualized assessment, consulting where necessary with other University offices, including:
  • Department of Accessibility Services (DAS), to determine if reasonable accommodations may be helpful
  • Student Case Management and Intervention Services (SCMIS)
  • Residence Life Staff
  • Faculty members
  • Academic advisors
  • Threat Assessment Team members
  • The student’s healthcare providers (e.g., Student Health Services and/or Counseling and Psychological Services) with appropriate consent
  • Student’s treatment provider (with student consent)
  • Other individuals, including an external advocate designated by the student, as may be appropriate in an individual matter

(1) The relevant academic associate dean will notify the student in writing that an involuntary leave of absence is under consideration, and the reasons for that action. One or more of the three stated reasons above must serve as the justification for action. The academic associate dean will provide the student with the involuntary leave of absence policy. The student will be invited to meet with the academic associate dean to talk about a leave of absence, and the implications of both voluntary and involuntary leave. The student also will be referred to an academic associate dean in a school unaffiliated with the student or his/her/their program faculty in any way. This unaffiliated academic associate dean can provide advice about the leave of absence policy process and review options with the student separately from academic associate dean; this person’s role is advisory, not advocacy.

(2) The academic associate dean, often in consultation with DAS, will consider potential accommodations and/or modifications that could obviate the need for an involuntary leave of absence. These include but are not limited to:

  • Voluntary leave of absence
  • Academic accommodations
  • Housing and dining accommodations
  • Modifications of University policies, rules or regulations

(3) The student may be asked to provide consent for the academic associate dean to receive confidential information from a medical provider related to the behavior connected to the involuntary leave of absence. A student can decline to provide such consent; if so, the academic associate dean will move forward and may act with the information available at that time.

(4) Particular attention will be paid to the criteria for imposing an involuntary leave of absence, applied on an individualized basis, specifically:

  1. whether current knowledge about the individual’s medical condition and/or the best available objective evidence indicates that a student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of a member of the University community;
  2. whether a student is unable or unwilling to carry out substantial self-care obligations and poses a significant risk to their own safety not based on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations; and/or
  3. whether a student’s behavior severely disrupts the University environment.

The individualized assessment as to each factor, will be based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective evidence. It should ascertain: the nature, duration, and severity of the risk or disruption; the probability that the risk or disruption will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will adequately mitigate the risk or disruption so as to eliminate the need for an involuntary leave of absence. SCMIS will be involved as a consultant for these decisions will give significant weight to the opinion of the student’s treatment provider(s), including those identified by the student, regarding the student’s ability to function academically and safely at the University with or without reasonable accommodations. If the academic associate dean determines that the information provided by the treatment provider(s) is incomplete, requires further explanation or clarification, or is inconsistent with other information in the student’s record, academic associate dean, with proper authorization, will contact the treatment provider(s) to obtain additional information. In certain circumstances, the University may require the student to undergo an additional evaluation by an independent and objective professional designated by Emory University, if this will facilitate a more informed decision.

The academic associate dean may also consult with people on campus who are in a position to observe the student’s behavior and to be aware of actions that either disrupt the University environment or pose risks to the student or others; this includes faculty, resident hall staff, and other University staff, as appropriate to individual circumstances.

After these consultations, an individualized assessment taking into account available information, and giving the student a chance to meet and discuss the decision, academic associate dean will make a determination concerning the involuntary leave of absence.

If the involuntary leave of absence is determined, the student will be informed in writing of the decision, and will be provided with information about appealing the decision and relevant timeframes relating to that process. The written decision will also provide information about readmission requirements, and contact information for DAS. If this decision occurs during the semester, and a full withdrawal from classes is necessary, additional information about the academic and financial implications of that withdrawal will also be included. The length of the leave will be determined on an individual basis and as indicated relative to the underlying reason(s) for the involuntary leave. Students subject to this type of leave must also leave the university campus and/or residence halls within the timeframe set forth by the academic associate dean. The leave will remain in effect until the student has complied with any University requirements applicable to all students returning from a leave and any specific conditions mandated by the academic associate dean, and after an individualized assessment determining that the student is able to return to the University with or without reasonable accommodations.

If an involuntary leave of absence is not imposed, the academic associate dean may require conditions and/or set requirements under which the student is allowed to remain at the University.

(5) Within one week of the decision by the academic associate dean, the student may submit an appeal in writing to the Dean of the student’s school, or that Dean’s designee. Minimally, the Dean of the School will review:

  1. Whether the proper facts and criteria were brought to bear on the decision;
  2. Whether there is any new information not previously available to the student that may change the outcome of the decision-making process;
  3. Whether any procedural irregularities materially affected the outcome of the matter to the detriment of the appellant; and
  4. Whether the decision was reasonable given the proper facts, criteria, and procedures.

After reviewing the matter fully, the Dean of the School or designee will issue a written decision to affirm, modify, or reverse the decision to place the student on involuntary leave of absence. This decision is final, and no other appeal or grievance process is available. At any time during the leave process, the academic associate dean may notify a student’s parent, guardian, emergency contact, or other individual, consistent with the law, if notification is deemed appropriate.


B. Return Process

Emory schools and programs have varying administrative processes for students returning from leave of absence. Before the leave is effective, the student and dean shall discuss the process of return, and program-specific processes should be clarified. Generally, a student will not be allowed to return until at least one full semester has elapsed or until the leave period in the involuntary leave of absence notification has elapsed, and all individualized conditions and/or requirements are met.

  1. A student should make a written request to the academic associate dean to initiate the return to the University, either as a part of the regular readmission process or in addition to it, if a written request is not part of the regular process. As each program may have its own requirements for return, all returning students must meet the essential eligibility requirements and any technical standards of the program and University, with or without reasonable accommodations. In addition to school-specific readmission processes, all students returning from an involuntary leave of absence will provide information to help the University assess their readiness to return and undertake the responsibilities and obligations of being a student. The student may also be required to provide or facilitate provision of additional information from other sources. If necessary, the student or associate academic dean may consult with the Department of Accessibility Services about possible reasonable accommodations.
  2. The academic associate dean may also consult with other offices (listed above) about the student’s return, as necessary. The purpose of the review and consultations is to determine whether the student, with or without reasonable accommodations, has sufficiently addressed the issues that necessitated the involuntary leave of absence. Emory University may ask for additional information from the current healthcare provider and approval to provide that provider with the student’s academic records.
  3. If the academic associate dean is not satisfied that the student is ready to return to the University, the student will be notified in writing of the decision, including the reason for the decision, within ten business days after the student has submitted a request for return and required documentation. The student may appeal the decision about their return to the School Dean using the process outlined above; decisions about that appeal are final. The criteria used for an involuntary leave of absence will also be used to evaluate the return to the University (stated in Section A of this document)


C. Relationship to other University Policies

A leave of absence is an administrative process; it is not a disciplinary process. This policy and these procedures are not intended to be punitive and do not take the place of disciplinary actions that are in response to violations of Emory’s Codes of Conduct, Honor Codes, or other policies or directives. This also does not preclude the removal or dismissal of students from the University or University-related programs as a result of violations of other University policies, or school or program protocols, or dismissal for academic reasons. This policy does not limit the University’s ability to place enrollment holds on students for reasons beyond the scope of this policy, and nothing in this policy relieves a student of any financial obligations to the University that were in place at the time the involuntary leave of absence was finalized.

Nothing in this policy limits the power of the University to take temporary administrative action to ensure the safety of the Emory community. In exceptional circumstances, where the health or wellbeing of any person may be seriously affected, or where physical safety is seriously threatened, or where the ability of the University to carry out its essential operations is seriously threatened or impaired, the Provost may summarily suspend, dismiss, or bar any person from the University or University-related programs. In all such cases, actions taken will be reviewed promptly, typically within five business days, by the appropriate University authorities.