Petitions for Leave
Petition forms for leaves may be obtained from the Graduate Office website and must, before submission to the dean, carry the acknowledgment of the student’s option representative and, where appropriate, the thesis adviser. Petitions for medical leave must carry the recommendation of the director of student wellness services or their designee. In case of a lapse in status, readmission must be sought before academic work may be resumed or requirements for the degree completed.
While on Leave
Caltech considers students on an approved leave to be matriculated; however, students on leave are not currently enrolled and therefore do not enjoy all rights and privileges of enrolled students. Unenrolled students, and accordingly, students on leave, have limited access to Caltech’s educational activities, programs, and services. They may not attend classes or labs, live in Institute housing, or access certain student resources, including Student Wellness Services and Residential Life activities, programs, and services during their leave. Career Advising and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is, by default, open to all students who have not been permanently separated from the Institute, regardless of leave or enrollment status, unless otherwise revoked by the Director of CAEL or the relevant deans’ office. For questions regarding the full scope of these limitations, please contact the Graduate Office.
Students may consult with their adviser and otherwise plan for their academic future; however, they will not receive credit for courses unless they are properly enrolled. Students who are on leave are still subject to all Institute policies, including the Institute Sex- and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy. Violations of policy may affect a student’s eligibility to re-enroll.
A student may request a voluntary leave of absence for personal reasons by submitting a personal (non-medical) leave petition to the Graduate Office for approval. International students should consult with the International Student Programs (ISP) office regarding visa implications prior to submitting the leave petition. The dean may grant a personal leave provided (a) the student is making satisfactory academic progress as determined by the student’s adviser, (b) the leave is for one year or less, although special circumstances can be considered for a longer leave, and (c) the leave extends over a period that includes at least one full term.
A petition to return from a personal leave should be submitted six (6) weeks before the first day of the term for which the student intends to return. Return from a personal leave is subject to the approval of the dean and the student having an approved adviser and ongoing funding to support the student’s research. If a student does not anticipate having an adviser upon return, they will need to work with the option representative to arrange for funding and a new adviser in advance of the return. Return will only be granted once an adviser and funding are in place.
If a student is unable to complete their coursework or other course of study due to medical reasons, the student may petition for a medical leave of absence by submitting a medical leave petition, endorsed by the director of Student Wellness Services or their designee, to the Graduate Office for approval. International students should consult with the International Student Programs office regarding visa implications prior to submitting the medical leave petition.
Medical leaves are expected to extend over a period that includes at least one full term, although special circumstances may be considered for approval of a shorter leave upon the recommendation of a student’s treatment team.
Students may be required to sign a release of information form authorizing their treatment provider to communicate relevant medical information to representatives within Student Wellness Services and the Graduate Office to facilitate evaluation of the need for the leave and to determine appropriate conditions associated with the leave and establishing expectations for return from the leave.
The Institute may impose conditions on return from a medical leave, which may include confirmation from the student’s health care provider that the student is following the recommended course of treatment, the student’s consent for the provider to discuss the student’s condition or progress during the leave with Caltech officials, including representatives of Student Wellness Services and the Graduate Office, and an independent evaluation of the student’s readiness to return by a qualified medical professional. Any conditions of return will be specified at the time of the leave approval.
A petition to return from medical leave must be submitted six (6) weeks before the anticipated term for which the student intends to return. The return process includes an interview with the director of Student Wellness Services or their designee and the submission of a completed return from medical leave petition and provider recommendation. Students are expected to sign a release of information form authorizing their treatment providers to communicate with Caltech, including representatives of Student Wellness Services and the Graduate Office to determine readiness to return and any recommendations for reasonable accommodations. Return from a medical leave of absence is subject to the final approval of the dean. If the student is permitted to return from the leave, any conditions of return will be communicated to the student in writing.
A student returning from a leave for medical reasons will maintain the same academic standing that they had prior to the leave and will be subject to the same academic requirements for maintaining academic progress. Additional information and resources regarding medical leave, including financial and transcript implications, can be found at www.gradoffice.caltech.edu/current/LeavePolicy.
Consistent with Caltech policy, the requirements of Title IX, and Section 66281.7 of the California Education Code, students who are unable to complete their coursework or other course of study for a period of time due to a pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions are eligible for a pregnancy leave of absence. Students who are pregnant or who have recently given birth are also eligible for reasonable accommodations.
Students are not required to take a leave of absence, withdraw, or limit their graduate studies because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. However, students who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions are eligible to take a pregnancy leave of absence. The Institute provides up to six (6) weeks of pay to students during a pregnancy leave of absence; an additional 6 weeks of pay is available through family bonding leave (see following section).
A pregnant student who wishes to take a pregnancy leave should submit a pregnancy leave petition to the Graduate Office. Medical documentation from the student’s treating health care provider may be required.
A student who chooses to take a leave of absence because they are pregnant or have recently given birth shall be allowed an additional period commensurate with the length of the leave, but not to exceed 12 additional months, to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations and an equal extension of time toward the normative time to degree while in candidacy for a graduate degree, unless a longer extension is medically necessary.
An enrolled student in good academic standing who chooses to take a leave of absence because they are pregnant or have recently given birth shall return to their program in good academic standing following an approved leave period of up to one academic year, subject to the administrative requirements described above, unless there is a medical reason for a longer leave, in which case standing in the graduate program shall be maintained during that period of the leave.
The Institute also provides reasonable accommodations to pregnant students consistent with federal and state law. Reasonable accommodations may include allowing pregnant students to maintain a safe distance from hazardous substances, allowing them to make up tests and assignments that are missed for pregnancy-related reasons or excusing of absences that are medically necessary.
Students may take six (6) weeks of family bonding leave with pay. Enrolled students in good academic standing who chooses to take a leave of absence because of the recent birth or adoption of their child may request a bonding leave by submitting a bonding leave petition to the Graduate Office for approval. Bonding leave is in addition to pregnancy leave, providing eligible students with a combined total of up to 12 weeks of paid leave. Students returning from an approved bonding leave shall return to their program in good academic standing following the leave, subject to the administrative requirements described above.
Dependent Care Leave
Graduate students may take an unpaid leave for the purpose of full-time dependent care due to child care, school closings, and other dependent needs that require students to take a break from their studies. Students planning on taking this leave should first schedule a meeting with one of the graduate deans. Under this leave, students are eligible to retain existing benefits, including health and dental. If in Caltech housing, students may remain for up to one term while on dependent care leave. Please note that students with dependent care needs may instead request a reduced course load by submitting an underload petition.
The dean or designee may determine that it is necessary to place a student on an involuntary leave in a variety of circumstances, including when a student demonstrates behavior that poses a threat to health or safety, causes significant disruption to the Caltech community, for the personal safety or welfare of the student involved, as an interim measure, or as a result of a disciplinary action. The dean may impose an involuntary leave in appropriate circumstances, such as where a student’s behavior: (1) has, or threatens to, cause significant property damage; (2) significantly disrupts the Caltech community; (3) presents a substantial risk of harm to self or others; (4) indicates the student is unable or unwilling to carry out self-care obligations; or (5) violates a Caltech policy or the honor system. An involuntary leave also may be imposed when the student requires a level of care from the Institute community that exceeds the reasonable accommodations, resources and staffing that the Institute can reasonably be expected to provide for the student’s well-being.
Review and Decision Process
If the conduct has been the subject of an investigation or review under an Institute process or procedure, the dean will consider the findings and conclusions reached in that process. In other circumstances described above, in making an informed decision to place a student on involuntary leave, the dean will conduct an individualized assessment and consider relevant information including information provided in a timely manner by the student.
The dean may consult with other Institute personnel, including but not limited to Security and Residential Life personnel, faculty, staff and other individuals or departments. If appropriate and feasible, the dean may seek cooperation and involvement of parents or guardians of the student.
Medical information, including medical information provided in a timely manner by the student, may be considered if the behavior is associated with a physical or mental condition. In appropriate cases, the dean may consult with the director of Student Wellness Services or their designee and/or require a physical or mental evaluation from a health professional if the dean believes such an evaluation is necessary in order to make an informed decision. Students are expected, if necessary, to sign a release of information to facilitate discussions between Caltech and the health professional conducting the evaluation. The dean will also consider whether relevant risk factors can be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through reasonable accommodation.
The student will be advised in writing of the decision to impose an involuntary leave. The dean may stipulate conditions that must be met before the student may return. An involuntary leave may be a permanent separation from the Institute (i.e. expulsion); for a specific duration; or until certain conditions have been met. If the involuntary leave is not a permanent separation, the student will be advised of the length of the leave and/or any conditions for return.
If the dean determines that a student’s continued presence is likely to pose a substantial risk to the safety and well-being of the student or others, the dean may place the student on an emergency interim leave before a final determination is made. The dean will make reasonable attempts to meet with the student and consider relevant information provided by the student, if available within the timeframe needed to make a decision, before deciding on an emergency interim leave. An emergency interim leave will remain in effect until a final decision has been made.
Return from Leave
A student on involuntary leave will not be allowed to return until the dean makes a fact-specific assessment of the circumstances, considers relevant risk factors, and concludes that the student does not pose a significant disruption to the functioning of the Institute community and/or does not pose a substantial risk to the health and safety of the student or others. The dean will consider relevant information, including information provided by the student. In cases where a student has a physical or mental condition associated with the behavior triggering the leave, the dean will also consider whether the relevant risks can be eliminated by a reasonable accommodation. The dean may consult with other Institute administrators, as appropriate, in making their decision. The student will be notified in writing of the dean’s determination of whether the student will be permitted to return from a leave, will not be permitted to return from the leave, or will be permanently separated from the Institute. If the student is permitted to return from the leave, any conditions of return will be communicated to the student in writing.
If a decision by the dean to place a student on involuntary leave is imposed as a sanction resulting from a finding of responsibility under an Institute process or procedure, appeal rights and limitations, such as limitations on grounds for appeal, are governed by the applicable Institute process or procedure. In all other cases, a decision by the dean to place a student on involuntary leave may be appealed in writing within 10 days to the vice president for student affairs (or designee).