Associated Students of Madison passed a resolution in support of a student medical leave act Monday night, which would allow students to take a leave of absence from school due to “significant life events” without having to withdraw from school.
The Student Medical Leave Act, written by University of Wisconsin-River Falls student body president Rosemary Pechous, would solve the “outdated idea” of making students withdraw, she said. Students are now able to be connected and keep up on their homework via the internet, she said, and withdrawing can hurt retention rates because many students who withdraw do not return.
Tuition is often not refunded in full, Pechous said.
Pechous shared her own experience of taking a leave from school. When she withdrew at week 10, she was only refunded 20 percent of her tuition.
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“I think it’s possible for students to have significant life events and still stay in school, I don’t know why this is not a possibility,” Pechous said. “My request through ability services to take a three-week leave of absence was not granted … which was hard.”
Because her request was not granted, her grade point average dropped and her graduation was pushed back a year, Pechous said.
When students at UW-Madison withdraw from school, none of their in-progress classes and credits are counted towards their degree and their GPA is not affected. When students do not officially withdraw but stop attending class, however, the grades for that term will remain on their official transcripts, causing students to fail their classes.
Pechous has already gotten support of many UW-System schools and is receiving assistance from legislators who are looking into the feasibility of the act, helping draft it and seeing if any similar acts exist at other schools.
Many UW-River Falls administrators have apologized to her for how they handled her leave of absence after reading the act, Pechous said. The only pushback she has received is from those with concerns about students abusing the act.
Students abusing it is unlikely, Pechous said.
“If it is a significant life event, it would not be abused because nobody wants to miss school and go through that kind of shit,” Pechous said.
Both doctor’s notes and professor input would be involved before approving medical leaves, Pechous said. Mental health needs and a student’s parent or child getting sick would be valid reasons for medical leave under the act.
According to Pechous, the act would protect students from suffering academically due to their medical needs.
“It’s an issue of student rights,” Pechous said. “We talk a lot about mental health in this nation, and getting accommodations for testing is good, but universities don’t have leeway for students who have significant life events.”
ASM voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.
The meeting finished with ASM Chair Billy Welsh and Legislative Affairs Chair Laura Downer finalized their “Vote Coordinator” legislation. The legislation would add more commitment to the vote coordinator position and increase collaboration with the Legislative Affairs Committee.
The legislation passed, 13-0-2, finishing ASM’s second-to-last meeting of the semester.