When Students Get Sick

The guidelines below apply only to students dealing with a temporary illness or injury. These guidelines do not apply to those with documented disabilities who have been granted academic accommodations by the StAAR Center (formerly Student Accessibility Services).

Medical Illness Documentation Policy

Under university policy, your students are expected to negotiate any adjustments in academic requirements due to illness directly with you, their professor. For short-term illnesses lasting a few days, students should fill out the online Short-Term Illness Notification. This form should be used to keep you and the student's advisors and deans informed when the student misses classes, labs, seminars, quizzes, papers, oral presentations, or take-home exams due to illness. This electronic notification does not excuse an absence or override your class attendance policy. Its purpose is to alert you when a student is ill. Students with contagious illness or flu symptoms are encouraged to stay home and not attend class. Students who are ill for a week are encouraged to contact their Advising Dean.

COVID-19 testing and COVID-like symptoms may require faculty or students to suddenly move to online modality, which could impact student participation in the course. If a student in your class is required to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19, you will receive an automatic email notification to alert you that your student will not be attending class in person. You will also receive an automatic email notification when your student is able to resume in-person attendance. No other health details will be disclosed due to privacy concerns. Students will be responsible for adhering to policies about missed and/or late work and should continue to participate remotely if they are well enough to do so. Once they are able to return to class, they will be expected to check in with you on missed work to form a plan for academic recovery.

Traditionally, Health Service has provided excuse notes for undergraduate students who are too ill to take a midterm or final exam. Due to COVID-19 precautions, Health Service will not see students on a walk-in basis and will not provide exam excuse notes until further notice. Given the circumstances, students will not be able to provide a doctor's note for every missed exam due to illness and Advising Deans will not be able to confirm is a student is too sick to take an exam. We encourage you to give students the benefit of the doubt and apply an appropriate amount of flexibility. Please proactively communicate policies for students who miss exams and/or offer multiple forms of assessment for students to demonstrate their knowledge. You should not request doctor's notes or medical documentation from students. If students do provide you with medical documentation, please direct them to their Advising Dean.
Concussions, Cognitive Rest, and Temporary Academic Adjustments

Tufts Health Service, Athletics, and the Associate Deans of Undergraduate Education Advising work as a team to monitor students with concussions and keep faculty informed. If one of your students has been diagnosed with a concussion, you will be notified by the student's Advising Dean, and the Advising Dean will give you guidance about the student's academic needs.

A student who has sustained a concussion should have complete rest for the first 24 to 48 hours and limit activity until symptoms such as headaches, difficulty thinking, forgetfulness, and dizziness subside. This period of rest requires students to avoid reading, writing, watching TV, using computers, concentrating, or exercising while the brain heals. Most students can gradually resume most activities within 10 days, although some students may have more prolonged symptoms. You can read more about concussions on the physical health website.

Academic adjustments after a concussion might include excused absences, postponed exams, extensions on assignments, note-takers, or possibly if the concussion happens late in the term, an Incomplete. The Advising Dean will keep you informed about whether a student has been cleared by Health Service to resume academic activities or requires a longer period of limited activity or academic supports. 

If a concussion symptoms persist for more than three weeks (rare), the student may be eligible for academic accommodations authorized by the StAAR Center. If so, that office will send the you a formal notice of accommodations to be provided for the rest of the semester.

If a student tells you that they have a concussion, requests accommodations from you, or gives you a doctor's note from a non-Tufts professional, contact the student's Advising Dean. When it comes to temporary academic adjustments for a concussion or other illness, we ask that you follow the guidance of the student's Advising Dean or the StAAR Center rather than accept a checklist of accommodations from an off-campus professional.

If a student tries to resume academic work too soon after a concussion and seems to be suffering through headaches, nausea, dizziness, or other symptoms, contact the student's Advising Dean. Tufts athletes are monitored carefully for concussions and are not permitted to resume competitive sports until they are first able to resume normal academic activities and pass a battery of tests administered by Sports Medicine.

Excessive Absences

If an illness or injury is serious enough to cause a student to miss more than two weeks of class, the student’s dean will usually recommend a medical leave. We cannot force a student to take a medical leave, and professors may not ban a student from class. If a student misses more than two weeks of your class and cannot reasonably make up the missed work, consult with the student's Advising Dean.

Student Privacy

Traditionally, Health Service has provided excuse notes for undergraduate students who are too ill to take a midterm or final exam. Due to COVID-19 precautions, Health Service will not see students on a walk-in basis and will not provide exam excuse notes until further notice. Given the circumstances, students will not be able to provide a doctor's note for every missed exam due to illness and Advising Deans will not be able to confirm is a student is too sick to take an exam. You should not request doctor's notes or medical documentation from students.

If students do provide you with medical documentation, please direct them to their Advising Dean. Advising Deans are better equipped to deal with medical documentation and other confidential student matters and can provide guidance on these matters. The Advising Dean may already be aware of the medical reasons behind a student's hospitalization or need for temporary academic adjustments. Please understand if the Advising Dean is legally or ethically obligated not to share details of the student's medical situation with you.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

It is a good idea to include a statement on your syllabus or course Canvas site about classroom accommodations for students with disabilities. The StAAR Center has provided the following language for faculty to include on syllabi:

Tufts University values the diversity of our students, staff, and faculty; recognizing the important contribution each student makes to our unique community. Tufts is committed to providing equal access and support to all qualified students through the provision of reasonable accommodations so that each student may fully participate in the Tufts experience. If you have a disability that requires reasonable accommodations, please contact the StAAR Center (formerly Student Accessibility Services) at StaarCenter@tufts.edu or 617-627-4539 to make an appointment with an accessibility representative to determine appropriate accommodations. Please be aware that accommodations cannot be enacted retroactively, making timeliness a critical aspect for their provision.

CMHS Medical Excuse Policy

It is university policy that students are expected to negotiate any adjustments in academic requirements due to illness or other concerns directly with their faculty. CMHS cannot provide documentation for student clients who miss class(es) due to mental health issues/concerns. Students who miss class, exam(s), or assignment(s) due to mental health concerns or crisis are encouraged to consult their syllabus, notify their faculty, and connect with their Advising Dean if they will not be able to attend class. It is at the discretion of the faculty to determine when or if a student will be excused from class, an exam, or an assignment.

Tufts has partnered with Kognito to help faculty, staff, and students build skills around mental health and suicide prevention and to support academic performance and student retention. You can find the online program and additional resources on trauma-informed pedagogy.