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Involuntary Leave of Absence

I. Policy

Wentworth Institute of Technology is committed to creating a learning environment where all students can reach their full potential and excel, both academically and personally.  When a student is in distress or crisis and/or exhibiting concerning behaviors, the university remains dedicated to supporting that student while also preserving the safety and security of the university community and ensuring proper functioning of the university. 

In situations when a student demonstrates behavior that poses a threat to the health and/or safety of self or others, or is significantly disruptive to the university learning environment, an individualized assessment will be made. The university may require the student to take an involuntary leave of absence or impose conditions and/or restrictions designed to address the health or safety threat or disruption.  This policy outlines the individualized process that will be utilized when a student exhibits behavior that may necessitate an involuntary leave of absence from the university or other conditions or restrictions.    

This policy is not intended to be disciplinary in nature, but to support the student and to maintain safety in the community. This policy does not take the place of any disciplinary action and sanctions associated with a student’s behavior that is in violation of any law or university rule, code, or policy, including but not limited to, the Student Code of Conduct or the policies set out in The Sexual Misconduct and Sex-Based Discrimination Policy for Students and Employees.

In situations where multiple policies are applicable, the Dean of Students will determine which policy or policies to invoke.

Behavior Requiring Review

An Involuntary Leave of Absence may be required when a student’s behavior in private or public involves the following risks which cannot adequately be reduced through reasonable accommodations (“critical incident”):

  • the student is unable or unwilling to carry out substantial self-care obligations;
  • the student has health needs requiring a level of care that exceeds what the university can appropriately provide;
  • serious risk of physical or mental harm to self or others;
  • a medical condition that threatens public health;
  • the student presents a substantial risk of seriously affecting the health or well-being of any student or others;
  • the student causes a substantial disruption to the university community which impacts the ability of the university to carry out its essential operations; and 
  • any other behavior or condition which raises concerns about the ability of the student to satisfy and comply with academic requirements, the Student Code of Conduct, and university policies, and regulations, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

This policy covers students who are required to take an involuntary leave of absence or voluntary choose to take a leave of absence, medical leave of absence, or withdraw after a critical incident as described above.

II. Procedure

The Dean of Students or designee is responsible for determining whether a student has engaged in behavior that requires review under this policy. The Dean of Students will convene the university’s CARE Team to review the situation and all available documentation. Additional university representatives may be consulted, as necessary.

Interim Administrative Action

In certain emergency cases, the university may impose an Interim Involuntary Leave of Absence while the assessment process takes place. This interim measure may restrict a student’s access to classes, residence halls, campus grounds, and university resources. Under such circumstances, the student will receive notice of the interim involuntary withdrawal and will have an initial opportunity to respond to the evidence; however, the student’s right to more fully respond to the evidence and provide additional information will be delayed until it has been determined that there is no imminent Serious Risk of Harm, in accordance with the process outlined below.

a. Review and Decision Process and Notification

To determine whether an involuntary leave of absence or another measure is appropriate, the Dean of Students or designee will:

  • Review available incident reports and documentation of the student’s behavior.
  • Notify the student in writing that an involuntary leave is under consideration and provide the student with a copy of this policy and a description of the reasons why this is being considered, and the implications. The chair may also attempt to meet, in-person or virtually, to review the reasons why an involuntary leave of absence is being considered and provide an opportunity for the student to respond and provide medical information and other relevant information.
  • Convene the CARE Team to review the situation.
  • Consult with other university staff/faculty, as may be appropriate and feasible, including representatives from the Center for Wellness, Campus Police, Housing and Residential Education, Academic Affairs, Title IX Coordinator, and/or faculty. This consultation may be conducted by members of the CARE Team.
  • Seek, if appropriate and feasible, the cooperation and involvement of family, parents, or guardians of the student.
  • Review relevant medical documentation, as available. The university may request the student release any medical records related to the behavior being reviewed.
  • The university may require a student to be evaluated by an independent medical professional of its choice to assess the medical condition and potential risks involved.
  • If a student refuses to be evaluated by the university’s independent professional and/or release the diagnosis or records of the student’s treatment providers(s), the university will make its decision concerning the leave based upon the information it has at the time.
  • Utilize the information gathered to make an individualized assessment regarding the student’s behavior and whether an involuntary leave of absence and/or any other administrative restrictions are necessary to address the health and safety concerns or ensure the proper functioning of university programs and services.
  • The student will be offered a reasonable opportunity to address the information and to provide additional information relevant to the university’s evaluation, including information from student’s treatment provider(s).
  • Following a review of the best available relevant information, including available current medical information, and these consultations, the Dean of Students will determine whether to impose an involuntary withdrawal.  The student will be notified of the decision in writing.
  • The Center for Wellness will maintain all medical documentation related to withdrawal determinations but may share such documentation with others within the university with whom the office consults, on a need to know basis, and consistent with applicable privacy laws.

b. Conditions of Leave and Return

If an involuntary leave of absence is necessary, the university will provide the student within three (3) business days, written notification of the decision, including the beginning date and notification of any conditions that must be satisfied in order to return to the university. Additionally, the Dean of Students and/or designee(s) may attempt to meet with the student to review to discuss the decision. If the student is placed on an involuntary leave of absence (or agrees to a voluntary leave of absence) under this policy:

  • The involuntary leave of absence becomes effective immediately and the student will be required to leave campus immediately. While a student is on a leave of absence, they will not be permitted on campus, including residence halls or grounds, or participate in campus activities, absent prior written authorization of the Dean of Students. In addition, students may not have access to campus resources.
  • The student’s identification card must be returned to Campus Police.
  • The university may notify a parent, guardian, or other person if notification is deemed appropriate.
  • The student may not participate in programs or activities organized by the university until officially approved to re-enroll.
  • Conditions for an involuntary leave of absence and any conditions to apply for reenrollment will be provided to the student in writing. Any conditions for the leave and return will be individualized to the student and designed to help ensure that the health and safety or other concerns are resolved, and that the student is qualified to return. These conditions may include compliance with treatment plans, examination by independent or university health professionals, release of relevant medical records, interviews,  and a demonstrated ability to meet the university’s academic and conduct standards.
  • The student may be granted grades of “W” (Withdrawal) in enrolled classes, even if the normal deadline for a “W” has passed, or may be granted “I” (Incomplete) should the student’s Academic Dean and faculty believe it appropriate. The student is subject to the same rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations (room, board, tuition, etc.) that apply in the case of a voluntary leave of absence or medical leave of absence.
  • The length of a leave of absence will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Any conduct code or other policies relevant to a withdrawal shall be applied equally to all similarly situated students, e.g., without regard to known or perceived medical or mental health conditions.

III. Appeal Process

A student who has been placed on an interim involuntary leave, involuntary leave of absence from the university, or been subject to other restrictions or conditions may appeal this decision. The student must submit the appeal in writing, which must include a statement of the reason(s) why the appeal should be granted within five (5) business days of notice of the involuntary leave of absence or other measure. The student must submit the appeal and the reasons supporting the appeal to the Dean of Students or designee.  The appeal steps may include a review of relevant documentation and consultation with university officials and the student to ensure compliance with the terms of this policy. The decision on the appeal will be communicated in writing to the student within five (5) business days from the day the appeal was submitted, unless the circumstances require more time, in which case the student will be notified. During the appeal period and process, the student will remain on leave or subject to other imposed conditions. If an appeal is denied, the decision is final, and no further appeal is permitted. If a student believes that they have been discriminated against in connection with any university program or activity because of a disability or any other characteristic protected by applicable law in the administration of the university’s programs and activities, they have the right to seek a review of such concerns under the university’s policies,

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IV. Record Keeping

The university will maintain all information regarding Involuntary Leave of Absences in accordance with federal, state, and local laws. Access to these records is limited by applicable federal, state, and local laws.  All other records that are non-disciplinary in nature, will be considered part of the student’s educational record, and maintained by Student Affairs or Title IX Coordinator, as appropriate.