February 3, 2009

Editorial doesn’t have all the info

Your reporting was based on only part of the information in this particular student’s case, and was thus out of context.

The Editorial Board is indeed correct (“Art Failure,” 1/30/09) that it is highly unusual for a student to be denied resumption of studies. Over 98 percent of students who request to resume studies are approved to do so, and some students return to complete degrees after 20 or more years away from the College. When a student takes a leave of absence, we explain how to resume studies. Usually this involves only an e-mail to me. However, we also alert students that if they have been registered for less than one year, or if they are away for more than one year, we will be asking them to fill out an application to resume studies. This application, which is simpler than the application for admissions, is submitted to my office.

The vast majority of requests to resume studies come from students who have studied in the College for at least one year, or who have been on leave for less than one year. Approval in these cases is routine. However, for those students who are asked to fill out an application to resume studies, we do review this request carefully in light of the information the student has provided. If a student has taken courses elsewhere, we also ask for a transcript of this work.

Unfortunately, your reporting was based on only part of the information in this particular student’s case, and was thus out of context. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents me from sharing private student information in the case of Junwan Kong, so I cannot provide a fuller explanation for our decision. However, I would like to explain in general how we evaluate requests for resumption of studies.

Here are the questions we ask when evaluating a particular request. Why did the student leave and why does he wish to return? Is the student in good enough health to manage the demands of the College? If a student did work elsewhere, what courses were taken and how did the student perform? Is the student close to completing a degree elsewhere? Are the student’s parents willing and able to provide financial support? Will the student qualify for need-based aid, and, if so, how many quarters of aid eligibility remain? In the case of international students, who never qualify for need-based aid, is there sufficient family or outside scholarship support? Our goal is to assess all of this information and decide if there is a good chance that, upon returning, a student will be successful in completing a degree at Chicago.

The College has always been very supportive of students’ taking leaves of absence, and I would hate for your treatment of this issue to act as a deterrent to students leaving school for a host of good reasons. Your coverage is equivalent to doing a book review having read only the last chapter of a book: You have no knowledge of what preceded it. Respect for the right to privacy afforded to all students prevents me from providing further details about this decision.

Susan Art

Dean of Students