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Student Handbook: Withdrawal, Leaves of Absence, and Readmission

General Policy

Regardless of the reason, a student contemplating time away should speak with the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee as early as possible. Except as otherwise stated in this policy, all requests for leave must be made in writing. A student’s eligibility for any adjustment of tuition and fees based on a leave will be determined according to the Tuition Refund policy.

This policy may not be used in lieu of disciplinary action to address any violations of University rules, regulations, policies, or practices. A student who takes a voluntary or involuntary leave while on academic and/or disciplinary status will return to that same status.

A leave of absence does not extend the five-year period within which the J.D. program must be completed, unless the leave is required for active military service.

Non-Medical Leave of Absence

Villanova recognizes that it is sometimes necessary for students to interrupt their enrollment for a period of time and take a leave of absence. Students may take a non-medical leave for a variety of reasons including, for example, to attend to academic, personal, or financial matters.

A student who wishes a non-medical leave of absence must (1) submit a completed “Request for Non-Medical Leave” to the Assistant Dean of Students, and (2) meet with the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee.  Requests for non-medical leaves must be submitted before the final class of the semester. Once the semester is over and the reading and examination period has begun, a student may not request a non-medical leave except in the most extraordinary circumstances.  

If the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee finds good cause, a leave may be granted.  Because every student’s situation is different, the terms of a non-medical leave will be determined individually, including any restrictions from coming on campus or attending University events and including any conditions for the student’s eligibility to return to campus following the leave.

A non-medical leave may be granted for a minimum of one semester and a maximum of one year.  Only in extraordinary circumstances will the Assistant Dean of Students permit one additional year, for a total of two years.  

The process for returning from a non-medical leave is covered in the Return Following a Leave section.

Medical Leave of Absence

Students may request a medical leave of absence (MLOA) if they experience health situations that significantly limit their ability to function successfully or safely in their role as students. 

MLOA Process:

A student seeking a MLOA must take the following steps:

  • submit a completed MLOA Request Form to the Assistant Dean of Students; and
  • meet with the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee to review the request.

The student may be asked to schedule and undergo an evaluation by the Student Health Center and/or the University Counseling Center. This evaluation will occur after the student has met with the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee. The student must sign a release allowing the Student Health Center and/or the University Counseling Center to discuss their evaluation of the student with the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee who is reviewing the request.

After evaluating the student, the Student Health Center and/or the University Counseling Center will determine whether a significant health issue has compromised the student’s health, safety or academic success, and will submit an individualized recommendation to the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee regarding the student’s request for a MLOA.

The Assistant Dean of Students or their designee reviewing the request will make the final determination whether to grant the MLOA and will notify the student of the decision in writing. Because every student’s situation is different, the terms of a MLOA will be determined individually, including the duration of leave, any restrictions from coming on campus or attending Law School or University events, and any conditions for the student’s eligibility to return to campus following the MLOA.

Students may request a MLOA at any time during the semester but must complete such requests – including any requisite evaluation and related paperwork for the Assistant Dean of Student’s office – no later than the last day of classes in a semester. If a student does not complete a MLOA request by the last day of classes, the Law School will deem the request late and consider it for the following semester, barring exceptional circumstances.

A medical leave may be granted for a minimum of one semester and a maximum of one year.   Only in extraordinary of circumstances will the Assistant Dean of students permit one additional year, for a total of two years.

Involuntary Leave of Absence

If a student is unable or unwilling to take a voluntary leave of absence, the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee may initiate an individualized assessment to determine whether the student should be involuntarily separated from the University.

The Assistant Dean of Students or their designee may place a student on an involuntary leave of absence (ILOA) in situations where a student does not want to take a leave voluntarily and current medical knowledge and/or the best available objective evidence indicates that

  • the student poses a significant risk to the health, functioning, or safety of others; or 
  • the student is unable or unwilling to carry out substantial self-care obligations and poses an actual risk to the student’s own safety not based on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about individuals with disabilities.

In no case will the Law School require a leave based on a student’s mental or physical condition itself.

ILOA Process:

Except in emergency situations, before placing any student on an ILOA, the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee will (a) notify a student in writing that the Law School is seeking to determine whether the student should be required to take a leave of absence, and (b) conduct an individualized assessment.

In making this individualized assessment, the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee will

  • consider available information and documentation regarding the student’s behavior;
  • if feasible, hold a meeting with the student that, upon the express written consent of the student, the student’s spouse and/or parent(s) or legal guardian(s) may attend, and allow the student to provide any information the student believes is relevant to the determination;
  • consult with other appropriate Law School and University members, which may include, but are not limited to, professors and representatives from the Student Health Center, University Counseling Center, Department of Public Safety, Office of Disability Services, and/or the Academic Affairs Office. The Assistant Dean of Students or their designee may require that the student receive an evaluation by the Student Health Center and/or University Counseling Center and to authorize the Student Health Center and/or University Counseling Center to share the results and recommendations of their evaluation with the Assistant Dean of Students and/or their designees. If a student refuses to participate in the evaluation or to authorize the release of the evaluation results, and there is an actual or imminent health risk, the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee may restrict the student’s access to educational programs and activities, University services, and entry to the campus;
  • carefully consider the opinions and recommendations of the student’s treating providers, if available, along with the opinions and recommendations of any other healthcare professionals consulted by the University.

The Assistant Dean of Students or their designee will consider factors such as the following: the nature of the student’s conduct; the impact of the student’s conduct on others in the community; the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the likelihood of potential injury; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will mitigate the risk and allow such student to continue to attend classes and otherwise participate in the Law School and University’s educational programs.

Reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the Law School’s or University’s academic program or unduly burden its resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, that would exceed the standard of care that a university health service or counseling can be expected to provide. A student’s failure to comply with reasonable modifications may result in the student being asked or required to leave the Law School.

The Assistant Dean of Students or their designee will determine whether the student (1) may remain in attendance without conditions or restrictions, or (2) may require a reasonable accommodation or accommodations to continue in attendance, or (3) may not continue in attendance or participate in educational programs and activities or use University services. The Assistant Dean of Students will notify the student in writing of the decision. If a leave is required, the decision will specify the duration of the leave, any restrictions from coming on campus or attending University events, any conditions for the student’s eligibility to return to the Law School following the ILOA, and available appeals procedures. These determinations will be made on an individual basis.

Return Following a Leave

Some students who take a leave will have no requirements attached to their return. However, students may be subject to specific requirements for return based on the circumstances of their departure. Any conditions or requirements for return will be based on an individualized assessment of the student, including consideration of current medical knowledge and/or the best available objective evidence. The goal of these conditions is to prepare the student for a successful return to the Law School.

A student who has taken a leave of absence for any reason, voluntary or involuntary, may apply for return by writing to the Assistant Dean of Students. The student must demonstrate that he or she has met any conditions or requirements, if any, that were specified for the student’s return to the campus community.

For health-related leaves, the student may be required to provide documentation from treating providers regarding (a) the treating provider’s work with the student and the student’s clinical status; (b) an opinion as to the student’s readiness to resume academic studies, with or without reasonable accommodations; and (c) an opinion as to the student’s ability to function as a successful member of the campus community, with or without reasonable accommodations, and (d) a completed Community Provider Report Form for Student’s Requested Return. Any documentation from treating providers must be signed, dated, and (other than the Community Provider Form) submitted on letterhead. Because the Law School must consider the opinion of a student’s treating providers, the student will also be asked to sign releases allowing appropriate Law School professionals to communicate directly with the student’s treating providers.

The Assistant Dean of Students, in consultation with the Student Health Center and/or the University Counseling Center, will carefully consider the opinions and recommendations of the student’s treating providers, if available, and any other health care professionals consulted by the University. The Assistant Dean will notify the student in writing of the return decision, including appropriate appeal procedures if the request is denied.

Students on leave must complete their request for return submissions by the dates specified in the letter granting the leave (typically November 15 for the spring semester, and by July 15 for the fall semester). These deadlines ensure that the appropriate Law School and University officials have enough time to review the student’s request. The Law School and University will attempt to be flexible and review requests completed within a reasonable time after the relevant deadline. Nevertheless, if there is information missing from the request, and/or the Law School or University needs additional time to contact the student’s treating provider(s) (for health-related leaves), the University may consider the student’s return for the following semester than the semester for which the student initially sought to return.

Appeals

A student may file an appeal regarding (a) his or her placement on an involuntary leave, or (b) the denial of his or her request for return from any leave, whether voluntary or involuntary. The student must submit the appeal in writing within ten (10) business days of receiving the decision being appealed. Appeals must be directed to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.   The student may not remain on campus during the appeal period.

Appeals should clearly state the specific grounds for appeal and should present relevant information, including medical or clinical evidence, in support of the student’s position. The student may be required to sign a release to enable the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs to consult with the student’s health care providers. The Associate Dean of Academic Affairs will review the record and any additional information submitted by the student in the appeal and will render a written and final decision within ten (10) business days of receiving the appeal. The Associate Dean of Academic Affairs may extend the time limits set forth above as necessary.

Readmission After Exclusion

The Law School does not readmit students who have been excluded for failure to achieve the required grade point average or for other reasons, except upon favorable action on Petition for Readmission. That Petition must demonstrate the most extraordinary circumstances caused the failure. The decision to readmit or not is within the sole discretion of the Dean (see Academic Rule 11). If a student is readmitted, the student is considered to be in good standing and making satisfactory progress. In some instances, the student will be required to meet special conditions, repeat all or some courses, or enter a special program.

Military Leaves and Return

Villanova recognizes that students who serve in the U.S. armed forces may be required to take a leave from their program or course of study due to military service. Military service refers to service, whether voluntary or involuntary, in the armed forces, including service by a member of the National Guard or Reserve on active duty, active duty for training, or full-time National Guard duty under federal authority, for a period of more than thirty (30) consecutive days under a call or order to active duty of more than thirty (30) consecutive days. This does not include National Guard service under state authority.

Student Responsibilities:

The student must provide notice of any military leave as far in advance as is reasonably possible under the circumstances. This notice (a) should be directed to the Assistant Dean of Students or their designee, (b) may be provided by the student or any warrant, commissioned, or noncommissioned officer authorized to give such notice, and (c) does not need to indicate whether the student intends to return to the school. In circumstances where military necessity precludes the student from providing advance notice, such as service in operations that are classified or would be compromised by such notice, the student should provide notice to the Assistant Dean of Students as soon as possible, including an attestation of military service that necessitated the student’s absence.

The student must provide notice of intent to return to the Assistant Dean of Students within three (3) years after the completion of the period of service. Any student who experiences an illness or injury incurred or aggravated during the period of service must notify the Dean of Students within two (2) years after the period needed for recovery from the illness or injury. If the student fails to provide notice as required in this paragraph, the Law School’s standard procedures for return following a leave will apply.

Notices made under this section may be oral or in writing, although written notice is preferred to the extent possible.

Military Leave Process and Return:

Following notice of intent to resume studies, the student may return to the Law School with the same academic status and standing as the student had prior to taking the military leave.

The cumulative length of absence and all previous absences from the Law School for military service may not exceed five (5) years.

International Students

International students who are studying in the United States on a student visa should contact the International Students Services Office before submitting a leave of absence request, as taking a leave of absence can have significant visa-related implications.

Withdrawal

A student wishing to withdraw must notify the Assistant Dean of Students and the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in writing.  A student who withdraws without obtaining a leave of absence and who later wishes to return to the Law School must petition the Assistant Dean of Students for return to the Law School.  Such petitions ordinarily will not be granted.