Involuntary Leave of Absence Policy
The University has established this Involuntary Leave of Absence Policy (“Policy”) for the purpose of maintaining a campus environment that supports student success, furthers academic achievement, and respects the rights and privileges of all members of the campus community. This Policy describes the criteria and process that the University will use to respond to reports that a student has engaged or threatened to engage in behavior that poses a significant risk to the health and safety of themselves or others, or a significant disruption to the programs, services, or activities of the University.
II. Covered Behavior
- The student has engaged or threatened to engage in behavior that poses a significant risk to the health or safety of one or more individuals, or to the community as a whole;
- The 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;
- The student has engaged or threatened to engage in behavior that poses a significant disruption to the programs, services, or activities of the University (“University operations”).
A. Interim Involuntary Withdrawal
When the University receives credible information that a student has engaged in Covered Behavior that may require immediate action, the Dean of Students will conduct a review of the available information and confer with the Behavioral Consultation Team to assess the level of risk and/or disruption posed by the student.
Following this review, the Dean of Students may temporarily remove the student from the University and/or restrict the student’s access to the University’s campus, services, or activities. Before imposing an interim involuntary withdrawal, the Dean of Students will first seek the voluntary cooperation of the student. Imposition of an interim involuntary withdrawal is intended to be a temporary measure to protect health and safety and University operations and is not considered disciplinary in nature. It will remain in effect pending completion of the individualized assessment outlined below.
The Dean of Students will notify the student in writing of a decision to implement an interim involuntary withdrawal. The notice will include the rationale for the decision and a summary of the student’s rights under the process, including the student’s right to meet with the Dean of Students. The Dean of Students’ decision will be provided to the student’s academic dean and other University administrators as appropriate.
The student shall be provided an opportunity to meet with the Dean of Students or designee within two (2) calendar days from the effective date of the interim involuntary withdrawal. During this meeting, the student may present information relevant to the question of whether the student has engaged in Covered Behavior. After considering all the information presented, the Dean of Students will determine whether to continue the interim involuntary withdrawal and the student shall be notified of the decision within two (2) calendar days. The outcome of the meeting shall not preclude, render irrelevant, or predetermine the outcome of any subsequent action taken.
B. Safety Intervention and Involuntary Withdrawal Process
The Dean of Students, in consultation with the Behavioral Consultation Team, will initiate a risk assessment to consider whether a safety intervention or involuntary withdrawal is appropriate when presented with a credible report that a student has engaged in Covered Behavior. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the level of risk the student poses to health and safety and/or University operations and to inform decisions about the student’s future participation in the University’s programs.
The Dean of Students will make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability that the potential injury or significant harm will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures or, where applicable, the provision of auxiliary aids and services, will sufficiently mitigate the risk. In conducting this assessment, the Dean of Students will review the student’s available medical and behavioral history and consider whether the behavior is persistent and/or high acuity.
As part of the Dean of Students’ review, the student may be required to submit diagnostic or treatment information from the student’s current, treating health care professional. The student may also be required to undergo an independent assessment with a health professional designated by the University within a specified period of time, typically not to exceed 30 calendar days. This assessment will be at the expense of the University. At this assessment, the student will be asked to sign a release of information to allow the health professional conducting the assessment to communicate with the student’s treating physician or mental health professional (if applicable) to allow for a comprehensive evaluation, and to allow for a written evaluation as to whether the student can safely continue to be a member of the academic community and align behavior with established conduct expectations so as not to cause a substantial disruption to the educational environment. This release must be signed by the student and a witness.
During the assessment process, the student will be provided an opportunity to meet with the Dean of Students and provide relevant documents or other information, including the result of any evaluation conducted by the student’s own treating health professional. The student is encouraged to provide information about remedial efforts to address problematic behavior and the student’s plan to mitigate any ongoing risk of harm. At this meeting, the Dean of Students will seek the cooperation of the student, including discussion of possible measures to reduce the risk of harm or a voluntary medical withdrawal/leave of absence.
After reviewing the information, the Dean of Students will determine whether a safety intervention or involuntary withdrawal should be imposed. The Dean of Students will confer with other appropriate campus professionals to assess the level of risk or disruption posed by the student and whether there are any reasonable accommodations or mitigating measures which will allow the student to safely remain in some or all activities or programs of the University. Safety interventions may include, but are not limited to, reduced course load, consultations with health care professionals, compliance with health care provider recommendations, or restrictions on participation in University programs or activities. If practicable, the Dean of Students will extend the student the option of a voluntary leave before imposing a mandatory leave of absence.
The Dean of Students will issue a written decision regarding any necessary safety interventions or whether the student should be withdrawn from the University, the rationale for that decision, any requirements the student must meet prior to applying for reinstatement if the student is withdrawn, the student’s right to appeal the decision to the Vice President for Student Affairs, and the process to apply for reinstatement or return to University programs or activities. A copy of this decision will be sent to the student’s academic dean and other University administrators as appropriate. This decision will be issued within fourteen (14) calendar days of receiving all required documentation and assessment results unless an extension is provided for good cause.
During an involuntary leave of absence, the student will be assigned an Assistant Dean from the Student Assistance and Support Service (SASS) team to provide case management and support to help the student meet the requirements for a return from leave.
If the Dean of Students determines that the standards for safety intervention or involuntary withdrawal have not been met, the University shall assist a student who has been placed on an interim involuntary withdrawal to resume studies immediately and provide assistance regarding any coursework the student missed while withdrawn.
Within three (3) calendar days from the date of the Dean of Students’ decision, a student may file a written appeal with the Vice President of Student Affairs. The decision under appeal shall remain in effect pending the outcome of the appeal unless the Vice President of Student Affairs determines otherwise. The Vice President of Student Affairs will review the student’s written appeal and render a decision within seven (7) calendar days unless an extension has been granted for good cause. The Vice President of Student Affairs may choose, but is not required, to meet with the student to discuss the grounds for the student’s appeal. The Vice President of Student Affairs’ decision is final.
A student seeking reinstatement to the University after an involuntary withdrawal must submit a petition in writing to the Dean of Students. To be considered for reinstatement, the student be able to demonstrate that (1) the student can participate in the University’s programs without engaging in Covered Behavior; (2) the student meets all relevant academic requirements for reinstatement; and (3) the student has met any requirements for reinstatement imposed by the Dean of Students. In addition, a student’s individual college or program may have its own policies, procedures or requirements which must be complied with before reinstatement from a leave of absence. Students seeking reinstatement should consult with the Dean of Student Affairs for their individual college or program regarding any additional requirements imposed by their program.
The student should provide all documentation that supports the student’s request for reinstatement, including documentation that the student has taken steps to mitigate the previous behavior. The University may request additional records from the student and permission to speak to a treating professional. The records and information that will be requested and required are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on what information is necessary to determine whether the student is able to return and fulfill the fundamental requirements of the University’s programs. If the student refuses to submit any of the required information, the Dean of Students may deny the student’s request for reinstatement.
The Dean of Students may request to meet with the student as part of the consideration of the reinstatement request. The Dean of Students will review the relevant materials submitted by the student, other available information, and may confer with other appropriate campus professionals regarding the request for reinstatement. The Dean of Students will notify the student of the reinstatement decision in writing within fourteen (14) calendar days unless an extension has been granted for good cause. If the student’s request is denied, the Dean of Students’ decision will detail when and if the University will consider a subsequent request for reinstatement. If the student is readmitted, the Dean of Students’ decision will include any conditions for continued attendance.
The student may appeal this decision to the Vice President of Student Affairs by submitting a written appeal within seven (7) calendar days of the Dean of Students’ decision. The Vice President of Student Affairs will review the student’s written appeal and render a decision within fourteen (14) calendar days unless an extension has been granted for good cause. The Vice President of Student Affairs may choose, but is not required, to meet with the student to discuss the grounds for the student’s appeal. The Vice President of Student Affairs’ decision is final.
IV. Other Action
Actions taken under this Policy do not affect the student’s obligation to comply with other University policies or the sanctions to which the student may be subject for violation of any such policies. Pending or related student conduct or academic proceedings may continue even when a student is subject to an intervention or withdrawal under this Policy. In the event that a disciplinary suspension or a suspension for academic integrity violations occurs simultaneously with an involuntary leave of absence, the leave and suspension are to be effective consecutively, and not concurrently.
V. General Considerations
Unless expressly permitted by the Dean of Students in writing, a student on an involuntary leave is not permitted to be present at the University, maintain or initiate student employment, or participate in any University-related activities. Students also must adhere to academic policies per their individual school, college, and department, or any other conditions possibly placed upon an involuntary leave of absence. Students who believe they have a need to access campus resources while not enrolled may contact the Dean of Students Office for consideration of an exception. More details regarding specific considerations are below.
A. Departure from University Housing
- Residential Services (Housing Assignments)
- Residential Services (Residential Life)
International students have specific requirements which are included on the website for the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at the link below. Please communicate with your advisor in the International Office to discuss specific requirements and expectations in relation to your visa status.
B. Class Registration
While on an involuntary leave of absence, a student may not register for classes at Northwestern nor make academic progress until the student has been reinstated by the Dean of Students.
C. Considerations for International Students
- Office of International Student and Scholar Services
D. Financial Considerations
1. Financial Aid
For questions regarding Financial Aid (including loans and grants) please contact Financial Aid.
Chicago Campus Financial Aid
- Phone: 312-503-8722
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: (847) 491-8950
- Email: email@example.com
Northwestern room charges will generally be prorated dependent on when an involuntary leave of absence begins. For questions regarding room charges please contact Residential Services.
Residential Services 2122 Sheridan Road, Suite 150
3. Meal Plans
Northwestern meal plan charges will generally be prorated dependent on when an involuntary leave of absence begins. For questions regarding meal plans, please contact Northwestern Dining Services.
For undergraduate students, tuition is reset to the start of the quarter in which the leave begins. For graduate students, tuition adjustment or non-adjustment is dependent on a number of factors.
5. Health Insurance Considerations
A student and her/his/their parents/guardians are advised to check the terms of the health insurance covering the student. For additional information regarding insurance, please contact the insurance office.
- Phone: 847-491-3621
- Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Health Services and Student Activity Fees
The Health Services fee is not refunded if a student leaves the University at any time after the start of the year.
E. Other Considerations
1. Transcript Notations
Transcripts of students on a leave of absence will not distinguish between a voluntary and involuntary leave of absence and will mirror the practice for the enrolled program’s policies.
2. NET ID/Student Email
Depending on the length of a student’s leave of absence, your NetID may be deactivated in accordance with the NetID expiration policies through Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT). More information about these timelines are available through NUIT.
Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) 1800 Sherman Ave
- Phone: 847-491-4357
- NetID expiration policy for students
- International Office email: email@example.com
- NUIT Email: Consultant@northwestern.edu
3. Campus Activities and Involvement
The purpose of an involuntary leave of absence is to provide a student time away from campus to address the needs that impair the student’s ability to function safely and successfully at Northwestern University.
Therefore, during the time of an involuntary leave, a student is not permitted to enroll in or audit Northwestern University courses, participate in intercollegiate athletics, partake in other student organization activities or make academic progress until the student has been reinstated by the Dean of Students Office.
All information provided to the University pursuant to this Policy will be handled in a confidential manner and disclosed only in accordance with state and federal law.
VII. Students with Disabilities
The University does not exclude students with disabilities from participation in University programs or activities, or condition their participation in University programs or activities, based on criteria or requirements that are not equally applicable to similarly situated nondisabled students. This Policy is intended to assure that students with disabilities are not subjected to adverse action on the basis of unfounded fear, prejudice, or stereotypes.
VIII. Requests for Reasonable Accommodation
Northwestern is committed to providing students with disabilities a learning environment that affords them full participation, equal access, and reasonable accommodation. Students with disabilities should contact AccessibleNU to request accommodations. More information about requesting accommodations and support services offered by AccessibleNU can be found on the AccessibleNU website.
IX. Policy History
This Policy was effective on August 31, 2022.
 A “significant risk” as used in this Policy exists when there is a high probability of substantial harm and not just a slightly increased, speculative, or remote risk.
 Meetings under this Policy may be in-person or through alternate communication methods such as telephone or video conferencing.