Medical leaves of absence to receive new transcript notation

| Senior News Editor

Starting this semester, a new transcript notation will be applied for students who take mid-semester medical leaves to distinguish their situation from traditional withdrawals.

Notations will appear as a Withdrawal Leave of Absence (WLA) on students’ transcripts instead of as a withdrawal (W). Leaves of absence are defined by the Habif Health and Wellness Center website as any “life situations, medical conditions or psychological conditions that significantly impair [one’s] ability to function successfully or safely as a student,” including both physical and mental illnesses.

The process was initiated by last year’s Student Union Senate Mental Health Taskforce, now restructured into the Health and Wellness Committee, during the spring 2019 semester.

Senators were inspired to enact this change after hearing growing student concerns, and it was mentioned in Senate’s 2019 Improve WashU Campaign report. They also cited being motivated by an article in Student Life that maintained that mental health withdrawals should not appear on transcripts.

To be able to have the WLA notation on their transcripts, students will not need to take any additional action. Once the Habif Health and Wellness Center approves a student for medical leave, the dean of the students’ academic division will make the notation on their transcript.

Health and Wellness Committee member Rory Mather, a graduate student, said the process, which was initiated by the committee meeting with the deans of each academic division, was relatively straightforward.

“I think this is probably the most fluid project I’ve ever been part of,” Mather said. “We showcased what we wanted, they showcased what they wanted and we kind of went to a middle ground and were able to get things done quickly.”

According to Health and Wellness Committee Chair sophomore Gaby Smith, the change in notation is significant because it will allow students to give further explanation to graduate institutions and employers about their reasons for withdrawing from classes, especially if students taking medical leave need to withdraw from multiple classes.

Health and Wellness Committee member senior Shelly Gupta believes the notation will be helpful to students in destigmatizing mental illness.

“Something that we talked about in Mental Health Taskforce and now with the Wellness Committee, is just like people at Wash. U. have this stigma, and we can attest to it that people here just seem like everything is great about their lives and people are thriving, and I think it’s okay to not feel like you’re thriving,” Gupta said.

Smith is hopeful that the initiative will support students who are struggling and allow them to prioritize their health.

“As Student Union, we wanted to support those students who already are admitting that they’re struggling and already are seeking resources, so that they don’t have to worry about their academic future or come to a point where they feel like they’re choosing between preserving their transcript and preserving their mental health,” Smith said.

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