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Involuntary Leaves of Absence

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Under certain circumstances, a student may be placed on an involuntary leave of absence. An involuntary leave is not a disciplinary sanction; however, an incident that gives rise to a leave of absence, whether voluntary or involuntary, may subsequently be the basis for disciplinary action. Transcripts do not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence.

The decision to place a student on involuntary leave is made by the GSAS Dean of Students in consultation with other officers of the University, as appropriate.

An involuntary leave of absence may be required under the following circumstances:

1. Medical Circumstances

If (a) the student’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of any person or has seriously disrupted others in the student’s residential community or academic environment, and

(b) either the student’s threatening, self-destructive, or disruptive behavior is determined to be the result of a medical condition or the student has refused to cooperate with efforts by Harvard University Health Services to evaluate the cause of the behavior.

The decision to place a student on an involuntary leave of absence for health reasons is made in consultation with Harvard University Health Services (which may consider information from the student's current and/or former health care providers, if made available by the student), after an individualized assessment of all of the pertinent factors, such as the nature of the student’s conduct; 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. However, reasonable modifications do not include changes that would fundamentally alter the academic program or unduly burden GSAS resources or staffing capabilities or, with respect to the required level of care or monitoring, would exceed the standard of care that a University health service can be expected to provide.

A student who prefers to take a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons, rather than to be placed on an involuntary leave of absence for medical reasons, is ordinarily allowed to do so.

2. Alleged Criminal Behavior

If the student has been arrested on allegations of serious criminal behavior or has been charged with such behavior by law enforcement authorities. 

3. Risk to the Community 

If the student has allegedly violated a GSAS disciplinary rule, and their presence on campus poses a significant risk to the safety of others or to the educational environment of the community.

4. Failure to Register (Also Known as Administrative Leave) 

If a student has not completed the registration process as required at the beginning of each term. This could occur for the following reasons:

  1. Indebtedness. The student's account balance is unpaid, and the student has not made arrangements acceptable to the School to address the issue. 
  2. Failure to provide medical documentation of required immunizations. 
  3. Unfulfilled academic requirements. The student has not met an academic requirement and has not taken steps acceptable to the academic program to meet the requirement.
  4. Failure to register and enroll. The student has not registered as required at the beginning of each term.


Students may petition the GSAS Dean of Students for reconsideration and may appeal a final decision to the Administrative Board.

Administrative Leave

Students will be subject to disciplinary action and may be placed on administrative leave for the remainder of the academic term if by the seventh Monday of the term they fail to:

  • register for a minimum required course load 
  • withdraw from their academic program
  • have an approved application for non-resident status (traveling, leave, study at another Harvard school).

Students may return from administrative leave the following term once they have satisfied any unmet requirements that led to the administrative leave. 

Students who fail to register, withdraw, or submit an application for non-resident status for a second consecutive term will be withdrawn on the seventh Monday of the next term.

Students who have been withdrawn must apply for readmission to GSAS and pay any relevant fees.

Contracts for Enrollment

GSAS may condition a student's enrollment on certain terms or conditions set forth in a written contract between GSAS and the student when the student's conduct or circumstances have caused heightened concerns about the student's safety and/or well-being and: 

(a) the appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment or

(b) the student’s readiness to return to the Harvard community.

The contract may include, among other things, compliance with a medical treatment plan, regular consultations with health care professionals, communication with administrators, and limited disclosure of relevant medical information on a need-to-know basis, such as compliance with treatment and restrictions on certain activities. The decision to require such a contract is arrived at in consultation with Harvard University Health Services after an individualized assessment of the nature of the student’s conduct and circumstances and any other pertinent factors.



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