Dear Dartmouth Community members,
Your health and well-being are a priority. Good physical, mental, and emotional health are precursors to your ability to thrive in Dartmouth’s dynamic academic environment and we are committed to providing the support you need, when you need it.
Two years ago we initiated a comprehensive review of our mental health and wellness program for students, looking at our campus environment, speaking directly with students and faculty, and undergoing an external evaluation by the Jed Foundation. The result is a new student mental health strategic plan, which we will describe in full next month.
You already know parts of that plan, including the elimination of fees related to Good Samaritan calls, the introduction of 24/7 teletherapy through the mental health provider Uwill, and the doubling of clinical staff in the counseling center over the past three years. In addition to the new plan, we are in the midst of a search for Dartmouth’s first chief health and wellness officer, reporting directly to President Beilock.
Today I’m pleased to announce a major step forward in our approach to providing our community with the resources they need to feel their best. Dartmouth’s updated Time Away for Medical Reasons policy has been approved and will become effective on Jan. 2, 2024. We’ve named the policy “Time Away for Medical Reasons” to recognize that students sometimes need a break from their academic program, taking time to heal before returning to Dartmouth and progress toward their degree.
The revised policy expands support and resources for students and protects the right of all students (graduate, professional, and undergraduate) to take time away for medical reasons. The policy also provides guidelines for Dartmouth to administer the policy consistently and equitably, with a focus on making room in the academic and campus experience for mental well-being, while strengthening the connections we all have to the broader Dartmouth community.
Below are several noteworthy provisions in the revised policy, beginning with those that are effective immediately.
Need-based financial assistance for Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan (DSGHP) insurance coverage: For undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with demonstrated financial need and who are enrolled in DSGHP prior to taking time away for medical reasons, Dartmouth will now pay for up to four quarters of coverage after your current DSGHP insurance policy ends.
Access to campus: Students taking time away will have access to all public spaces and resources on campus, for example, going into the library, using Collis Center or the gym, eating in campus dining halls and cafes, or visiting the Hood Museum. Students can participate in any Dartmouth activity or meeting that would normally be open to the public, such as attending lectures or public events such as football games, Powwow, and many campus performances.
Access to email: Students retain their Dartmouth email for two years. This will allow students to use their email address for messages as well as access some websites.
Access to Uwill: Students have access to Uwill for two years, ensuring that they have access to free counseling and mental health resources while away.
Employment on campus: Students may apply for any Dartmouth job that is advertised to the public.
Parts of the policy effective on Jan. 2:
- New position: We are recruiting to fill a new position, the time away director, and aim for the new person to be in place when the revised policy takes effect on Jan. 2. This staff position will act as the single point of contact for students before, during, and after taking time away. The director will coordinate with each student’s advising dean to support and simplify the student’s experience.
- Connections with campus while taking time away: The time away director will communicate periodically with students who are taking time away to assist them in planning their return. This will provide students with a better connection to campus.
- All Dartmouth: To ensure consistency and fairness, the revised policy is fundamentally the same for all students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional), with slight modifications related to school-specific differences. The policy and process are the same for all medical reasons, whether physical or mental health.
Once the policy becomes fully effective, we will include simple, clear procedures for students to follow as they take time away and return from time away. To help students, staff, and faculty understand the new policy, we’ve created a series of frequently asked questions.
If you have questions that are not answered in the FAQs, you may submit them using this form or direct them to the following events or staff:
- Undergraduates: Information sessions will be held via Zoom on these dates: Session 1: Monday, Sept. 18, 5-6 p.m.; Session 2: Wednesday, Sept. 20, 3-4 p.m. A detailed invitation will follow in the near future.
- Thayer School of Engineering: Holly.Wilkinson@dartmouth.edu
- Geisel School of Medicine: Taryn.C.Weinstein@dartmouth.edu
- Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies: Kerry.H.Landers@dartmouth.edu
- Tuck School of Business: Sally.O.Jaeger@dartmouth.edu
I am deeply grateful to the students, staff, and faculty who provided input and helped us develop a policy that is supportive of students who need to take time away for medical reasons. This policy gives them agency and the opportunity to prioritize their health and wellness, facilitating a quicker recovery and ultimately enabling them to return to their studies and activities in better physical and mental health.
The new policy is one of the many steps we are taking to improve student health and well-being, with more to come next month. We look forward to continuing to build on the strength of the Dartmouth experience, while pursuing new approaches to grappling with the mental health crisis facing young people today. Through our work—and the work of health care experts, physicians, policy makers and academics—we hope to bring about meaningful interventions that can save lives.
David Kotz ’86