Leaves of Absence Should Be Made Easier for Students


Pepper Ritchey/Villanovan Photography

Students deserve adequate mental health care, including accessible leaves of absence.

Brian Luppy, Staff Writer

As we are in the midst of the second semester, prioritizing mental health can become difficult. At this point in the semester, professors have covered enough material to assign papers and quizzes, and, with that, many students feel lost in a sea of stress.

Currently, we are in a marathon of six uninterrupted weeks of school, without a single vacation day. As we reach the end of such a stretch, burnout becomes a real possibility. Students can feel unmotivated to complete their work, attend commitments and participate in class.

To combat such stress, everyone has their own strategies. Some choose to focus on one subject at a time, while others try and get everything done all at once. The rest of us work out, listen to music, talk to friends and indulge in our favorite foods.

Perhaps the most obvious coping strategy, though, is simply taking a break away from school. If a student is not making the most of their time here and feels that their mental well-being is getting in the way, it should become an option for students to take their own custom-length break from classes.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy option at Villanova or most other colleges across the country. Mental health advocates at Yale, however, recently won a legal battle against the University. In a lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the University has discriminated against students facing mental health issues, especially those who choose to take time off school. In a series of conferences over the past month, the University worked with the plaintiffs to address their concerns. The general sentiment they shared was that Yale made it too difficult to take medical leaves of absence and that reinstatement requirements were too strict.

Since the case ended, several policies have been changed. Now, students can take up to a four-semester leave of absence without the need to re-apply to the school. Now that many of these mental health-related concerns have been addressed, students and other activists react to the news. 

Paul Homan, director of Mental Health and Counseling at Yale, spoke about the change. 

“I really hope it helps students to take care of themselves and not feel like they are getting caught between a lot of arcane rules,” he said. “I see this as being a fairly momentous change.”

Often, major policy changes such as this can have a snowball effect, leading to similar changes at schools across the country. Villanova should soon follow suit. 

However, mental health-related resources at Villanova are plentiful. Students can receive counseling at the Health Center, participate in pet therapy during finals week and attend in-person and online events regarding mental health. Lime green bandanas, which represent solidarity in mental health and suicide prevention, can be seen on backpacks across campus. During orientation, multiple presentations and group discussions are given to make new students aware of all the options Villanova offers. 

“I think it’s important,” freshman Ryan Clothier said. “If I ever needed one of the resources, orientation made me realize that they were all there for me.”

These resources are great, but, even still, students should be able to easily take a break from the daily academic grind. Villanova should follow Yale’s lead and implement similar changes to help those who want to take a medical leave of absence. They should be made more accessible and less daunting. 

College is supposed to push us, but not to the point where it severely affects our mental health. We are at college to learn, but when academics get in the way of our mental health, we should reassess our priorities.