Short-Term, Temporary Absence Policy

Purpose/Rationale: The purpose of the Short-Term, Temporary Absence Policy is to permit students to continue progress in a course of study if unable to attend and participate in proximate instruction and learning while seeking treatment and/or recovering from a medical or mental health event, a family emergency/crisis, or any other unforeseen circumstance. The short-term nature of this Policy not only facilitates student access to their education, but also minimizes the impact and disruption to the educational process, and preserves the integrity of the delivery of academic course(s).

History: The “Temporary Medical” Process, currently in place as a collaboration between Health and Counseling Services and the Office of Disability Services, provides a means under which students may qualify for temporary academic accommodations and services based on medical, mental health or other major life events. These events are more temporary or transient in nature and have, as an expectation, a more progressive improvement of the condition while academic adjustments and services are implemented. In these cases, the students may still be on campus and may be able to attend classes but may need academic extensions or adjustments or additional campus services to mitigate the impact of the temporary medical condition/event.

In March of 2020 the “Temporary Medical” process was expanded to include COVID-related illnesses or events that may cause students to be away from courses for a short period of time impacting the student’s academic progress. In these COVID-related circumstances, the students may or may not have been on campus and unable to attend classes in person. However, they may have needed access to instruction, academic extensions and/or adjustments, or additional campus services to mitigate the impact of the temporary medical absence or circumstance.

This Policy provides a means for a student to request a short-term, temporary absence if unable to attend and participate in proximate instruction and learning while seeking treatment and/or recovering from a medical or mental health event, a family emergency/crisis, or any other unforeseen circumstance. Absences beyond what this Policy allows may necessitate consideration of the student taking a Medical Leave of Absence or Leave of Absence from the College.

Policy: This Policy defines and guides an institutional position regarding how long a student may be absent from classes and instruction before a course(s) may not be recoverable. It also provides for consultation among the faculty, the student, and the Director of Disability Services for the development of a Short-Term Absence Plan. The Short-Term, Temporary Absence Policy provides an intermediate option between current policies and processes and Muhlenberg College Medical Leave of Absence Policy (MLOA) and the Muhlenberg College Leave of Absence (LOA) Policy. This Policy applies to undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education courses in which the course length is presented in traditional semester format. This Policy does not apply to courses that are delivered in a compressed or accelerated design, including summer courses.

Duration of Short-Term Absence: This Policy provides for short-term absences of an anticipated duration of two weeks or less during the Fall and/or Spring semester. Situational exceptions to allow for one additional week of absence, may be considered. For absences of longer than three weeks in duration, the Committee will consult with the student and faculty members to determine options which may include course(s) withdrawal, a Leave of Absence, or a Medical Leave of Absence. Depending on the underlying etiology, the Short-Term, Temporary Absence may be cumulative rather than consecutive in duration. The student may not take more than one Short-Term, Temporary Absence per semester.

Process:

  1. Identification of Need: The student identifies the need for a short-term, temporary absence. In cases in which a student is not available, a parent or guardian serving as proxy may be considered.
  2. Request Form: The student is encouraged to complete the Short-Term, Temporary Absence Request Form as soon as possible after the precipitating circumstance has occurred. The student submits the Request Form with the supporting documentation (defined below) to the Office of Disability Services.
    1. *The student should be aware that any lag in the submission of the Request Form and documentation may result in delay of approval and implementation of services.
    2. *The student should be aware that the start of the Short-Term Temporary Absence may be retroactive to the date of first occurrence of absence from classes.
  3. Documentation Guidelines
    • Types of Documentation -
      • Medical: Documentation from treating health care provider
      • Mental Health: Documentation from treating mental health care provider
      • Family emergency/crisis: Personal statement from student
      • Other qualifying circumstances: Documentation as appropriate
    • If supporting documentation is not immediately available, the Committee may proceed based on the body of evidence and interview with student and/or parent or guardian proxy, as appropriate, while awaiting documentation.
  4. Meeting: The student meets with designated college administrator(s) to review the circumstance and documentation.
  5. Committee Review: The Request Form, including required medical documentation, mental health documentation, or family emergency/crisis personal statement will be presented by the Director of Disability Services to the Committee to make determination about approval. The Committee will include the Dean of Academic Life, the Dean of Students, and the Executive Director of Health and Counseling Services, members of the CARE team as deemed necessary, and any other individuals the Committee may choose to consult.
    • Initial time period: 2 weeks
    • Situational exceptions to allow for one additional week of absence may be considered.
    • For medical, mental health, or family emergency/crisis that necessitates an absence of longer than three weeks in duration, the Committee will consult with the student and faculty members to determine options, which may include a course(s) withdrawal, a Leave of Absence, or a Medical Leave of Absence.
  6. Initial Faculty Consultation: The Director of Disability Services will consult with the faculty members about the requirements and essential elements of the course, reasonable access, accommodations, and services.
    • In the case of approved short-term, temporary absence, the Director of Disability Services or designee, will work with faculty and academic departments on behalf of the student, on a course-by-course basis, to determine if the short-term absence would constitute a fundamental alteration or undue administrative burden, thus rendering it an unreasonable request. If an instructor is willing to allow a short-term absence, the faculty member will choose the appropriate alteration to course assignments and how to deliver the material that best fits their course-learning outcomes and teaching style. The attached rubric will serve as a guide in making these decisions.
    • Depending upon the mode of instruction and pedagogy, an instructor may recommend that the student withdraw from the course.
    • The Director of Disability Services and faculty/departments may choose to use the rubric below in making determinations about the reasonableness of a request for temporary remote learning given the pedagogical design of the courses.
  7. Short-Term Absence Plan is developed following consultation and collaboration with the faculty members and the student in order to develop reasonable, temporary accommodations and services. The student is informed that even with approval, there may be limitations as qualified in the Short-Term Absence Plan. The student is informed that, depending on the mode of instruction and pedagogy, the faculty member may determine that a Short-Term Temporary Absence Plan is not possible for that course and may recommend a course withdrawal.

Short-Term Plan considerations:

  1. The number of allowable absences is dependent on the essential elements and participatory nature of the course (i.e., class participation, group projects, presentations, in-class performances) as established in each faculty member's syllabus.
  2. If the amount of absences exceeds the allowable range of absences approved as part of the Plan, the student understands there may be an impact to the course grade.
  3. The Director of Disability Services will be responsible for contacting the faculty member as soon as possible when a short-term, temporary absence will or has occurred and, as necessary, informing the faculty member as to the anticipated date the student will return to class.
  4. This Short-Term Absence Plan potentially provides relief from requirements for physical attendance in classes. The student is responsible for any material covered or work done during such a short-term, temporary absence.
  5. The Short-Term Absence Plan will reflect extension of deadlines for assignments due, and arrangements for making-up assignments (e.g., performances, exams or quizzes) missed during such absences to be discussed and arranged with each faculty member.
  6. The Short-Term Absence Plan will include notification of student return from the temporary absence as well as a plan for continuity of services during the transition.

Student Responsibilities:

  1. Timely initiation of the request process including completion of the Short-Term, Temporary Absence Request Form and submission of relevant documentation
  2. Participate in the development of a Short-Term Absence Plan
  3. Maintain ongoing communication with the Director of Disability Services about their personal situation causing the short-term absence
  4. Maintain ongoing communication with faculty about progress with coursework when situationally possible
  5. Engage in a discussion with the Director of Disability Services about a plan for the continuity of return.

Note: In order to achieve the most successful outcomes throughout the Short-Term, Temporary Absence, the student is encouraged to follow all the components of this process in a timely manner. Failure to do so may result in the discontinuation of the Short-Term, Temporary Absence process.

Faculty Responsibilities:

  1. Participate in the development of the Short-Term Absence Plan with the student and the Director of Disability Services.
  2. Encourage communication with the student and the Director of Disability Services about student expectations during the short-term absence regarding:
    1. current course assignments
    2. changes or modifications in course assignments
    3. student participation
    4. academic progress and completion of assignments during the absence and in the transition period after return

Note: In extraordinary circumstances, the Committee may waive certain components of this process.

Appendix A:

Internal Rubric to Guide Faculty Consultation and the Development of the Short-Term Absence Plan

  ReasonableFundamental Alteration and/or Undue Administrative Burden
Instructional Content Delivery

Asynchronous - Asynchronous content/materials is available or does not require additional burden to create

Synchronous Access - Instruction is primarily lecture-based and a participant can “Zoom-in” and not be disadvantaged nor require an alteration of course instruction

- Instructor would have to produce new online content

- Existing online course content is primarily interactive, collaborative, or discussion based and requires a group of remote students to participate in in order to be effective, but only a single student is enrolled remotely.

Applied Activities (Laboratory, Studio, and Field Activities)

- Sufficient online content/materials from prior online course sections is readily available

- Department has established access to suitable web-based lab platform

- Activity is primarily observational, and a participant can “Zoom-in” and not be disadvantaged nor require an alteration of course instruction

- Material or facility only available in person for student to complete activity

- “Zoom-In” from a live lab/studio or performance only captures instructor and precludes necessary peer interaction

- Instructor would have to produce new online content

Other Graded Activities

- Exams & Quizzes can be delivered via Canvas or remote-proctored easily.

- Faculty member would not need to create / record separate lectures or demonstrations for remote student

- Discussion/Participation can be assessed remotely (live Zoom interaction, written reflection, discussion post, etc.)

- Assessment activities involve in-person use of special equipment, materials, or facilities (lab practical exams, specimen identification, etc.)

- Student’s inability to attend in-person meetings also affects participation in performances, field trips, site visits, and other out-of-class expectations

Instructor & Peer Interaction - Low frequency of highly interactive activities, for example, seminar/discussion, breakout work (partners, small groups, lab partnering), peer reviews or critique, demonstration, rehearsal, performance, out-of-class collaborations (group projects, field trips, site visits)

- “Zoom-In” to a live course only captures instructor and precludes peer interaction

- Frequency of interactive activities is enough (daily, weekly), that facilitating online access or devising alternate activities is not feasible for instructor, academic department, or IT.