Changes to MIT Undergraduate Withdrawal and Readmission Practices

March 30, 2016
Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor, 2014–2021 |

To members of the MIT community:

Today I am pleased to share the news about important changes we will make to our undergraduate withdrawal and readmission practices. I am confident that these enhancements will have positive, meaningful impacts on individual students and MIT as a whole.

In recent years, I have had many conversations with students who made clear to me that we need to strengthen our current system so that it earns the confidence of our community and ensures that students who take time away from MIT are able to return and succeed here.

In response, I charged the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) and Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (DUE) with gathering community feedback and developing recommendations to clarify and bolster our withdrawal and readmission policies. After engaging with hundreds of community members – including students who returned to MIT from leave – and examining the best practices employed by several of our peer institutions, the CAP and DUE have developed a roadmap for change based on the following principles:

  • New policies should be easily understood and effectively communicated;
  • When students are involved in withdrawal and readmission, they must be able to participate in the process; and
  • We should help all students who wish to return from a leave and earn an MIT degree to do so.

Key recommendations

The full report contains recommendations that lower the barriers for leave and return; create stronger supports for students transitioning away from or back to MIT; and establish distinct roles for the CAP and Student Support Services (S3), to better align with their different missions. In the coming weeks and months, we will be taking the following actions:

  • Creating a new, flexible "leave of absence" category with fewer administrative requirements so that students can depart for a variety of educational, professional, or wellness reasons;
  • Changing the terms that describe our policies to "leave and return" in order to prevent the misimpression that "withdrawal" indicates a permanent separation from the Institute, or that "readmission" implies a student's initial admission has been revoked;
  • Working together, students and S3 (and MIT Medical and academic departments) will develop clear, personalized action plans so that students understand what is expected of them during their time away and upon their return to campus;
  • Developing a new S3 mentorship program for students who are considering their leave options, are on leave, or are preparing to return;
  • Encouraging students on leave to stay in touch with their S3 dean, advisor, and department;
  • Designating the CAP as the sole decision-maker for return requests, in order to ensure that S3 can fulfill its core mission of providing support, advice, and guidance to students; and
  • Redoubling efforts to raise awareness and understanding about the leave and return process: the CAP and S3 will report annually on leave and return data, enhance the information available on S3's website, and create an online portal of firsthand accounts from students who have spent time away from campus.

Next steps

Because these recommendations will have real-life implications for many members of our community, Professor Charles Stewart III, CAP chair, and Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis Freeman will be hosting a community conversation on Wednesday, April 13 from 5-6:30 p.m. in 3-270. Please read the report and join us at this gathering so that your insights and perspectives can inform our next steps. Alternatively, you can submit comments to

This community conversation will also present a platform to discuss how to improve our current required medical leave and hospitalization policies and practices. The CAP and DUE's report recommends that a review take place without undue delay.
Because we understand how much these issues matter to our community, MIT Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis and I will charge a committee this spring with examining our current policies on required medical leave and hospitalization processes. The full committee, which will engage students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, will provide its recommended actions before the 2017 spring term.


I am incredibly thankful to Professor Stewart, Dean Freeman, and the entire CAP (members listed below) for the thoughtfulness, compassion, and diligence they exhibited throughout the review process. These are complex issues with human impacts. The committee took great care to listen and learn and, as a result, developed a framework for a support system that students will believe in.

I am also grateful to the members of the community – particularly our returned students – who helped shape the report and pointed us in the right direction. They offered invaluable personal insights in true MIT problem-solving fashion and deserve special recognition for their efforts.

Now we must turn our attention to responding to the report's call for action. I hope you will join me in this important work.


Cynthia Barnhart

Committee on Academic Performance
Academic Year 2015–2016

Voting members

  • Prof. Charles Stewart III (Chair), Political Science
  • Prof. Arnold Barnett, Sloan School of Management
  • Prof. Robert Berwick, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
  • Prof. Tanja Bosak, Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences
  • Prof. Scott Hughes, Physics
  • Prof. Kristala Jones Prather, Chemical Engineering
  • Ms. Jeannette Maisano-Brown '17, Physics
  • Mr. Obasi Onuoha '17, Computer Science & Engineering
  • Ms. Amelia Trainer '18, Nuclear Science & Engineering

Ex-officio members

  • Ms. Leslie Bridson, Director of Financial Aid (Designee of Student Financial Services)
  • Dean DiOnetta Jones Crayton, Director of the Office of Minority Education, DUE (Designee of the Dean for Undergraduate Education)
  • Dr. Haleh Rokni, MIT Medical Department (Designee of the Medical Director)
  • Dean Kathleen Monagle, Director of Student Disabilities Services
  • Dean Julie Norman, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming, DUE (Designee of the Dean for Undergraduate Education)
  • Dean David Randall, Director of Student Support Services
  • Ms. Ri Romano, Associate Registrar (Designee of the Registrar)

Staff to the committee

  • Mr. Stephen Pepper, Staff Associate of the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming
  • Ms. Kimberly Benard, Assistant Director in Global Education and Career Development

rev. 3/31/16