Graphic by Joaquin Kunkel

GA Report

Discover what was discussed in the most recent General Assembly.

Mar 5, 2017

The Student Government General Assembly on Feb. 26 focused on clarifying the university’s leave of absence policy. Student Government President Rend Beiruti moderated the conversation by asking questions submitted by students beforehand, followed by questions asked directly by students at the meeting. Dean of Students Kyle Farley, Vice Provost of Academic Administration Charles Grim and Director of Counseling Rami Alshihabi were present to answer the questions voiced by students.
Dean Farley began by clarifying the terminology — a leave of absence is when a student leaves before or within the first two weeks of the semester. A term withdrawal is when a student leaves between the second and ninth week of the semester. And a withdrawal is when a student leaves after the ninth week.
In the past, NYU Abu Dhabi has been more lenient than other campuses in the GNU. Some students who have left three weeks into the semester have been able to count this absence as a leave of absence as opposed to a term withdrawal.
“Over the past couple of years there has been a move to harmonize the academic policies of GNU. The leave of absence policies are just the latest thing to be harmonized,” said Grim, adding that the time frames are expected to be enforced more strictly.
Students are allowed to take a leave for up to two semesters, but if they decide to take a third semester off, they will have to reapply to the university in order to return. Exceptions are made for students who leave the university for military service.
When students return from their leave of absence they can choose to either use the academic bulletin of their original enrolment year or their current year. The only exception is that if course prerequisites change, students must follow the new prerequisites.
When students choose to go through with a term withdrawal, four Ws will appear for that semester on their transcript. However, if students leave after the ninth week, four Fs will appear on their transcript. “For that reason students might be denied or counseled away from withdrawing. Generally, the later it is in the semester, the more serious your reason for leaving must be,” said Dean Farley.
Both Dean Farley and Grim emphasized that the students’ health and their families take precedence when it comes to deciding to withdraw. “Do it because it is the right thing to do. Academically we can make it work one way or another,” said Grim.
Several concerns were raised by students about taking a leave of absence due to mental health reasons. Alshihabi clarified that the university cannot require a student to take a leave of absence due to their mental health condition - student consent is required. However, counselors can and do make recommendations to students regarding a leave of absence. “If the student is not in imminent danger, then we continue working with him or her. But if they are in imminent danger, then we will have to hospitalize them,” said Alshihabi.
Students who take a leave of absence for mental health purposes must show proof that they sought medical help after leaving, and their healthcare professional must provide a certificate of readiness. Then two university counselors carry out an assessment of readiness after an interview with the student and make a recommendation on whether the student should return to campus the following semester.
Students also raised concerns about the way in which the university deals with mental health issues. While the Health and Wellness Center gives out notes to students, counselors do not. Students expressed concern that there are no avenues by which students with mental health problems can back out of class attendance, even if their performance is compromised due to their condition.
Alshihabi clarified that counselors do not give out such notes due to confidentiality purposes. Furthermore, Grim stated that the Health and Wellness Center notes are not proof that a student is unwell but only that they visited the center.
Regarding mental health, Grim said, “... students might have to be marginally forthcoming with the faculty member or Dean Farley and I, in order to get excused absences.”
Overall, students expressed concern that policies regarding the leaves of absence and mental health issues are never thoroughly presented to students.
“It seems to me that there are many misconceptions about leaves of absence. We need to destigmatize it because it is not mentioned to students in [First Year Dialogue] or Marhaba,” said Beiruti.
Paula Estrada is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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