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Medical Leave

The following policies are to be used to help transition a student to a safer environment more conducive to their needs when it becomes clear that remaining at Whitman College is not in the best interest of the student or the Whitman community. This policy also allows for a student to take a leave voluntarily when medical conditions or psychological distress make a leave in their best interest; the goal of a medical leave is to define the length of separation, outline the path to re-entry, and ease the transition for the student’s return, and to optimize the opportunities for the student’s success when they return. Under certain conditions, if a student has not opted to take a leave voluntarily, the college may institute an involuntary leave under this policy.

At the discretion of the Dean of Students or their designee, and subject to the refund policies of the institution, arrangements may be made for partial or complete refund of tuition and/or fees. Incomplete grades or other academic relief may be made as well, subject to the academic policies of the College. Modifications to on-campus housing contracts may also be possible. The college will follow normal college procedures for leave or withdrawal , including any documentation requirements. Students who elect to fully withdraw, rather than take a leave, are required to reapply for admission after the time specified by the Office of Admission, and will be treated as any other applicant for admission at that time.

Student-Initiated Voluntary Medical Leave of Absence

Students may initiate a leave or withdrawal from Whitman for medical or psychological reasons. If a student requests a voluntary leave, the leave documentation will specify the duration of the leave and options for extension. The student is permitted to return upon the end of the leave provided they meet the clearance criteria listed below (see Criteria for Return Following Medical Leave).

College-Initiated Medical Leave of Absence

If a student poses a direct threat of harm to others, causes Whitman College to have a legitimate safety concern for the community, or has self-harm behaviors that cause a significant disruption to the community, or to the education of others, and they do not take a voluntary medical leave, in rare cases they may be placed on a medical leave of absence by the Dean of Students. 

Standard for College-Initiated Medical Leave

This section applies to all medical leaves for any student who is at significant risk of harm to others or whose self-harming behaviors or threat of such significantly disrupt normal college activities.
When a student is a direct threat, they may be placed on leave until they are no longer a direct threat. A direct threat exists when a student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of others.

A significant risk constitutes a high probability of substantial harm. Significance will be determined by:

  • The nature, duration and severity of the risk;
  • The probability that injury will actually occur; and 
  • Whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk.

The college must determine whether reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk. Determining that a student is a direct threat requires an objective and individualized assessment. The assessment must be based on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective evidence. This standard also applies to the reinstatement of a student who has been placed on leave. They are eligible to return at the beginning of the next semester after showing they have met the criteria for return specified above.

Criteria for Return Following Medical Leave

A student who is returning to Whitman College after a student-initiated or college-initiated medical leave must receive clearance by providing the Dean of Students written evidence from a licensed medical or mental health professional that was performed within 30 days of the time leading up the student’s return, specifying that the student is:

  • No longer a legitimate safety concern for self or others, 
  • Can pursue their education without disrupting others, and
  • Otherwise qualified to participate in Whitman’s educational programs. Any other conditions outlined in accordance with this policy and/or any conduct sanctions must also be completed.
  • The college reserves the right to extend the required documentation period for extenuating circumstances.
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