Faculty Delays Leave Proposal

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) yesterday delayed approval of a proposed change to the Handbook for Students which would allow the Dean of the College to place a student on medical leave of absence.

After several faculty members voiced objections to the language and substance of the proposed change, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 agreed to withdraw the proposal and resubmit it to the Faculty later this month.

According to the proposal, the Dean of the College would be able to place a student on "Leave of Absence for Medical Reasons" in situations in which "the student's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the student or others, or has seriously disrupted others...and the student's behavior or threatening state is the result of a medical condition."

Many faculty members voiced their support for the medical leave proposal.

"I am supportive about this legislation," said Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences John E. Dowling '57, who is also the Leverett house master. "It is everyone's benefit, in benefit of other students and in benefit of the student involved."


"These are real situations which we have encountered in the last several years," Dowling said. "[In the past,] we did not have the means to deal with such a situation."

But Christopher P. Jones, professor of classics and history, abstained from voting on the medical leave proposal at last Wednesday's Faculty Council meeting, although he said he generally favors the proposal.

"My only reservations center on the questions of a student's refusal to cooperate with University Health Services (UHS)," Jones said.

"[I am concerned] that the ques- tion of a student's refusal might create a gray area as to whether this was indeed a medical leave [or a disciplinary decision]," he said.

Many faculty members objected to the proposal's vague language.

"The wording makes it sound as though the simple refusal to cooperate [with University Health Services] could result in a leave of absence," Jones said. "But I'm sure that was not intended."

Professor of Government Seyla Benhabib said she was concerned by the potential impact of the proposal on students' rights.

"There is basic question of whether a university can require or oblige a student to undergo psychiatric examination by its university health services," Benhabib said. "There is both a question of medical ethics and civil rights involved."

But Jones said he believes the proposal will pass at the next Faculty meeting.

"I am personally confident that the motion can simply be rephrased to take account of all these concerns," he said.

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