Dartmouth Updates Policy on Time Away for Medical Reasons

News subtitle

The changes seek to help students on medical leave stay connected to community.

Aerial view of the Dartmouth Green
(Photo by Robert Gill)

In a message to the Dartmouth community on Thursday, Provost David Kotz ’86 announced changes to the policy for students taking time away for medical reasons.

The changes constitute “a major step forward in our approach to providing our community with the resources they need to feel their best,” Kotz says. While the policy will be fully effective as of Jan. 2, 2024, several aspects of it take effect immediately.

The updated policy protects the rights of all students—undergraduate, graduate, and professional—to take time away from their studies because of their health, including mental health, and expands the support and resources available to students while taking medical time away.

The policy’s new name—Time Away for Medical Reasons—is meant “to recognize that students continue to be part of our community when they are taking time away to heal,” Kotz says.

“Good physical, mental, and emotional health are precursors to your ability to thrive in Dartmouth’s dynamic academic environment, and we are committed to providing the support you need, when you need it,” he says.

Noteworthy Provisions

Effective immediately, students insured under the Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan will have access to need-based financial assistance for their coverage for up to a year, or four academic quarters, after their current DSGHP policy ends.

Additionally, students taking medical time away now have access to all public spaces on campus, including libraries, dining halls, the gym, the Collis Center, the Hood Museum of Art, and elsewhere, and are welcome to participate in any public activities and meetings, including lectures, performances, Powwow, and sporting events. They may also apply for any campus job being advertised to the public.

Students taking medical time away will retain their Dartmouth email addresses and have access to free teletherapy counseling and mental health resources through Uwill for the duration of their leave, up to two years.

Dartmouth has begun recruiting for a time away director, a new position that it aims to fill before the policy takes full effect in January. In coordination with each student’s advising dean, the director will be the single point of contact on the staff for students before, during, and after their time away, helping to support and simplify the student experience of the time away policy, providing students with a better connection to campus while away, and assisting them in planning their return.

The revised time away policy is fundamentally the same for all undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students, with slight modifications related to school-specific differences. The policy and processes are the same for all medical reasons, including physical and mental health issues.

“I am deeply grateful to the students, staff, and faculty who provided input and helped us develop a policy that is supportive of students who need to take time away for medical reasons,” Kotz says. “This policy gives them agency and the opportunity to prioritize their health and wellness, facilitating a quicker recovery and ultimately enabling them to return to their studies and activities in better physical and mental health.”

Informational Resources

When the policy goes into full effect in January, simple, clear procedures for students to follow as they take time away and return will be available on the Time Away website. The site also provides answers to frequently asked questions. Questions not addressed in the FAQs may be submitted via online form.

For more information about the time away policy, undergraduate information sessions are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, and 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, via Zoom; registration information will be available soon.

Graduate and professional school students may address questions to the following staff members:

A Comprehensive Plan for Mental Health and Wellness

The time away policy is one of many steps Dartmouth is taking to improve student health and well-being, the outcome of a comprehensive review of Dartmouth’s mental health and well-being resources that began two years ago and included an external evaluation by the Jed Foundation.

Based on this review, Dartmouth next month will announce a student mental health strategic plan aimed at improving mental health and wellness. In addition to the time away policy, several elements of the strategic plan have already launched, including the elimination of fees related to Good Samaritan calls, the introduction of the 24/7 Uwill teletherapy service, and a doubling of counseling center staff over the past three years.

Dartmouth is in the process of hiring a chief health and wellness officer who will report to the president and oversee the Dartmouth College Health Service, the Student Wellness Center, and Employee Wellness while acting as a key adviser on all health matters affecting students, faculty, and staff.

“We look forward to continuing to build on the strength of the Dartmouth experience while pursuing new approaches to grappling with the mental health crisis facing young people today,” Kotz says. “Through our work—and the work of health care experts, physicians, policy makers and academics—we hope to bring about meaningful interventions that can save lives.”

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