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Guidelines Applying to All Short-Term Absences and Leaves of Absence

Section E.3 of the Graduate School Handbook

E.3.1
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Academic Leaves. In some cases, it will be most appropriate for a funded graduate student to take a period of time off from both school and appointment responsibilities (e.g., an academic leave of absence). A funded graduate student faced with a difficult life situation should discuss options with their advisor, graduate studies committee chair, and immediate supervisor. Students who decide to take an academic leave of absence should understand what impact, if any, that the time off will have on their expected funding opportunities upon their return to their graduate programs. Students who take time off from their studies (i.e., are not registered for classes) are not eligible for the leaves of absence described in this document.

E.3.2
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Appointment and Stipend Protection. Whenever possible and academically appropriate, the funded graduate student’s appointment and stipend (including fee authorization, health care subsidy, etc.) should be protected and should extend as long as is required by proper documentation, or until the end of the appointment, whichever comes first, as provided for in the provisions in sections 1.4, 1.5, and 7.

E.3.3
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Extension of Leave of Absence. In some cases, it may be appropriate to extend a leave of absence into a new, contiguous appointment. Leaves of absence that need to be extended beyond the initial appointment may be stipend-protected (in whole or in part) for reasons stated in Section E.2 and at the sole discretion of the appointing unit.

E.3.4
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Registration Requirements. Unless an exception has been approved by the appropriate Graduate Studies Committee, the Graduate School, and other relevant entities (such as a funding agency or Office of International Education), graduate students on stipend-protected leaves of absence must meet the minimum Graduate School registration requirements to hold an appointment.

E.3.5
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Coverage of Responsibilities. Funded graduate students who are requesting short-term absences or leaves of absence must follow the procedures established by their appointing units to cover responsibilities in cases of absence. When managing coverage of duties for an absent funded graduate student, appointing units must be sensitive to the load of other graduate students.

Appointing units currently use a variety of practices to manage leaves of absences (i.e. those that extend beyond two weeks). Approaches include temporary assignment of responsibilities to another funded graduate student, accompanied by a temporary increase in that graduate student’s appointment percentage (e.g., from 50 percent to 75 percent) or a special payment to that graduate student to compensate for additional effort over a period of time.

In some situations, it is not necessary to cover the duties, and the assignments can be held until the student returns from a leave of absence. In some cases, a graduate student who is not funded is placed on a new appointment to cover the duties. Graduate students may not serve as “volunteer GAs” for the duration of a leave of absence; that is, graduate students may not serve without a stipend, at a stipend not commensurate with the expected load, or without appropriate payment of tuition and fees. Circumstances that may warrant an exception must be approved in advance by the Graduate School.

E.3.6
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Approval Process. Requests for short-term absences and leaves of absence are handled at the local level. When in need of a short- term absence or a leave of absence, the funded graduate student must make a request as promptly as possible to his/her immediate academic or administrative supervisor. In the case of short-term absences, the supervisor will make the decision. In the case of leaves of absence, the supervisor must consult with the student’s advisor and chair of the Graduate Studies Committee in the student’s program of study. The appointing unit may designate additional individuals who must approve requests for leaves of absence. In some cases it may be necessary for the supervisor and/or student to consult with other entities (such as a funding agency, the Office of International Education, etc.). For students on a Graduate School fellowship appointment, the student’s program of study must notify the Office of Fellowship Services of the student’s leave of absence.

E.3.7
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Documentation. Appropriate documentation, such as a letter from a medical practitioner, is required for leaves of absence. Appropriate documentation for short-term absences is required but may be waived in some circumstances. Documentation and tracking of short-term absences and leaves of absence are maintained at the appointing-unit level. In the cases of leaves of absence, the information must also be shared with the student’s advisor and the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee in the student’s program of study. In order to have appropriate consultation with the student’s advisor and Graduate Studies Committee chair, it will be necessary for the appointing unit to obtain the student’s written consent to share information about the leave of absence prior to doing so. Every effort should be made to protect the student’s privacy, including maintaining medical documentation in a secure location that is separate from other files related to the student’s appointment or academic status.

E.3.8
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Appeal Process. A request for a leave of absence without requiring makeup time may be denied due to an inappropriate or unreasonable request, including inadequate documentation; repeated requests for short-term absences or leaves of absence; documented unsatisfactory performance; and/or incompatibility with funding agency or other institutional guidelines (such as requirements applying to international students).

If a dispute over a request arises, the graduate student should follow the appointing unit’s appeal guidelines. Such guidelines often begin with an informal discussion with an advisor, Graduate Studies Committee chair, department chair, college dean, or unit director. Such discussions will often lead to a successful resolution. In cases where a successful resolution cannot be reached at the local level, the Graduate School is available to offer advice and, in certain situations, to provide a formal hearing and adjudication. The Office of Human Resources can also provide information and consultation.