In an attempt to improve its leave policies and protocols, Columbia has piloted a new medical leave readmission process to allow students on leave to register for classes before their anticipated return, the first step in a larger effort to create a “simplified readmission” policy.
Currently, students on medical leave are unable to register for courses until completing a final in-person appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services, which requires students on leave to physically come to campus. However, this past summer, the University launched a pilot program that gave approximately eight students returning this fall the opportunity to register for courses prior to having a final appointment with CPS.
Though the University initially described the pilot program as a “one-step readmission” process, this has since been changed to a “simplified readmission pilot.” The pilot is ongoing and the University has not yet announced plans to move beyond the pilot program.
According to Dean of Advising Andrew Plaa, the new process was introduced as a means to help students, particularly international students whose visas are contingent on enrollment at Columbia, navigate the complicated medical leave process. In the past, the process for readmission has itself been a cause of distress for students already facing financial and medical challenges.
Amir Lankarani, CC ’20, who went on medical leave in spring 2018 and returned to Columbia this fall, voiced his support for the new pilot program. Although Lankarani was not a part of the pilot program and instead went through the traditional readmission process, he said that the opportunity to register for courses in the summer would have helped him transition back into Columbia.
Lankarani, who is on the pre-med track, was unable to register until the day before classes began because he needed to have a final, in-person appointment with CPS.
“I didn't get into a single class I wanted to [this semester] because every class was full,” he said. “If I had registered ahead, I think it would've made the semester a lot more relaxing and enjoyable, and my class scheduling would be better right now.”
The new policy was spearheaded by the working group to “strengthen leave policies and protocols that best support students in distress,” which is one of 14 subgroups that were formed as a product of Columbia’s partnership with the Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving mental health on college campuses. Each working group targets a specific facet of mental health policy reform at Columbia.
The working group is chaired by Plaa and includes administrative representatives from Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, General Studies, and CPS. The working group’s membership does not currently include any students.