Personal Withdrawal or Leave of Absence Policy

Students are responsible for knowing the following:

Occidental College strives to facilitate the education of its students while supporting the basic health and safety of all community members. The College upholds the principle that no student shall be excluded from the pursuit of an education at Occidental College with the condition that he or she complies with essential rules and regulations and does not threaten the health and safety of other students and the community.

On occasion, a student may display behavior that causes significant disruption to the College's essential educational activities, or can be reasonably construed as threatening to the health and safety of the individual or to others. The College provides the student with the option of taking a personal health withdrawal or continued leave of absence. In the event that a student displays such behaviors and declines to take a withdrawal, the College may apply conduct procedures based on the student’s documented behaviors.

The College strives to achieve resolution to such situations in a collaborative manner, with the acknowledgment that all referrals to support services and recommendations will be voluntary. It is important to note that the College will document all information regarding a student's withdrawal or leave of absences.

I. Policy and Procedures for Addressing Disruptive Behavior

Any person who believes that a student's behavior and/or physical condition: (a) poses a threat of harm to him/herself or others, (b) substantially disrupts the lawful activities of others on campus, and/or (c) indicates that the student is unable to care for him/herself, should initiate a report to the Dean of Students Office.

The Dean of Students (DOS) will refer the incident to the Student Success Team (SST), whose members will develop, implement, and coordinate a response to the student's situation. SST is composed of (a) Vice President for Student Affairs/Dean of Students (ex-officio member), (b) Director of Counseling Services or designee, (c) Associate Dean of Students, (d) the Assistant Deans of Students, (e) Manager of Student Success, (f) Associate Dean of the College, (g) Chief of Campus Safety, and (h) Head Athletic Trainer. The Manager of Student Success will chair the Student Success Team. Other staff and faculty members who hold information critical to the incident may be consulted at the discretion of the chair.

A. Basis for Addressing Student Concerns

The Associate Dean of Students or designee (ADS) may refer a student to SST if he/she determines that there is a significant likelihood that the student is engaging in behavior that poses a substantial danger of causing imminent harm to self, to others, or to substantial property rights, or which renders the student unable to engage in basic required activities necessary to obtain an education, or that substantially impedes the lawful activities of others.

B. Standard for Addressing Direct Threats

The College will take necessary steps to evaluate a student who displays behaviors indicative of direct threats. A direct threat will exist when a student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of self or others. A significant risk constitutes a high probability of substantial harm, based on the reasonable judgment of a mental health professional rendered. Significance will be determined by:

  • The nature, duration and severity of the risk;
  • The probability that the potentially threatening injury will actually occur;
  • And, whether reasonable accommodations to policies, practices or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk.

The ADS or designee will determine the most appropriate action on a case-by-case basis. The following are examples of common actions taken, but these do not preclude other actions based on a specific circumstance:

  1. Continue at the College with no restrictions. The College may take no action if it is decided, based on review of the referral information or other information presented, that the student may be allowed to continue with no restrictions. In those cases, care will be taken to provide opportunities for the student to be advised of accommodations and supportive services as available. In cases where there are disciplinary actions pending, those actions may go forward.
  2. Informal Action. The College will consult with relevant professionals and meet with the student to address observations of  his/her behavior over a specified period of time. The administrator may instruct/advise the student to: stop classroom disruptiveness, receive specific support services or secure accommodation arrangements. Further disruptive behavior may result in disciplinary action.
  3. Remain enrolled at the College subject to conditions but with eligibility for College -owned residential agreement reviewed. Under certain circumstances, where other students' living and learning environment is likely to be disrupted by a student's behavior, the Assistant Dean of Residential Education and Housing Services will have the option of making adjustments to the housing agreement.
  4. Interim suspension and/or separation from campus. If there is a pervasive pattern of disruptive or threatening behaviors that present an imminent risk of injury to the student or others, the student may be suspended from studies and/or ordered off campus for an interim period. In these situations, a meeting will be scheduled as soon as possible to determine if the interim suspension will continue (See item C below).
  5. Referral to the Office of Student Conduct. Students who have allegedly violated College policies will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Please see the Code of Student Conduct for important information such as conduct procedures and potential sanctions.
C. Referral for Evaluation

The ADS may refer a student for evaluation by a mental health professional (chosen or approved by the College) if it is believed that the student may meet the criteria set forth in this policy (See Section I.A.). The ADS can instruct the student to complete an evaluation at any time.

Students referred for evaluation will be so informed in writing with personal and/or electronic delivery, and will be given a copy of these standards and procedures. The evaluation must be completed within five business days from the date of the referral letter, unless an extension is granted by the office of the ADS. A student who fails to complete the evaluation in accordance with these standards and procedures and to give permission for the results to be shared with appropriate administrators may be withdrawn on an interim basis, or referred for conduct action, or both.

D. Interim Action

The ADS may order interim suspension of a student where it is reasonable to believe that a direct threat exists. Students suspended under this provision will be notified by personal and/or electronic delivery, and will also be given a copy of these standards and procedures. The student will be given the option to appear before the ADS within two business days of the order for interim health suspension to discuss only the following:

  1. the reliability of the information concerning the student's behavior;
  2. whether the student's behavior poses a danger of causing substantial, serious harm to others, causing property damage, or directly impeding the lawful activities of others;
  3. whether the student has complied with the requests of the ADS, which may include an evaluation in accordance with the standards and procedures outlined in this policy (See item C).

The decisions to be made at the meeting with ADS are (a) whether interim suspension should be continued or modified, if and (b) when the student will participate in the student conduct process.

II. Voluntary Withdrawals or Leaves of Absence

Students may request assistance from the ADS, SST members, and/or from clinicians at Emmons Student Wellness Center to voluntarily withdraw or take a leave of absence from the College for personal reasons. Whenever possible, Emmons clinicians will also assist the student in obtaining referrals to appropriate mental health resources in the community or near the student's home.

A. Procedure for Voluntary Personal Withdrawal or Leave of Absence
  1. The student may contact the Dean of Students Office with a request for a personal withdrawal or leave of absence.
  2. Students will most likely drop all of their courses. However, the option exists for the student to take incompletes if the ADS and the student's professors approve this request. The student must contact each of their professors and complete the necessary paperwork.
  3. All students must complete the necessary paperwork required by the Registrar’s Office prior to their return and follow the steps for reinstatement. Please check with this office for instructions.

Once students return, the Dean of Students Office is available as a resource for support as they transition back to campus and throughout their college career.


Last updated August 10, 2016