Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Wake Forest celebrates a unique learning experience centering engaged faculty-student relationships in a highly residential environment. Our students choose Wake because they care very much about this type of academic experience. As a caring faculty member, it can sometimes be hard to know how to respond when students report they are struggling with medical or mental health issues. The Campus Health Committee, The Office of Academic Advising, the Center for Learning, Access, and Student Success, the Safe Office, and the Office of Institutional Equity are here to support you in maintaining the integrity of the academic experience you work so hard to create. We hope that this brief guide to some of the notes you may receive is helpful.

  • Verification notes – The University Counseling Center or Deacon Health do not routinely provide visit notes, so students should be able to share with you directly when they have sought care for illness. If we provide a note, it simply means we verify that they were seen in our office at that time. Many of you have class policies in your syllabus that take into account expectations regarding managing absences for minor illnesses or other avoidable life circumstances. With or without a note a student may talk to you about a legitimate need to use those policies.
  • Major Illness notes – The Office of Academic Advising can reach out to you to let you know that a student has experienced a significant illness or life event such as a family death or emergency, an illness that required hospitalization or several days out of class, or a traumatic event which has had a significant impact on the student’s ability to fully participate in academic activities. In this case, you are asked to extend some flexibility to the student to catch up on or makeup work that was missed for a period of two weeks from the notification.
  • Accommodation letters – The Center for Learning, Access, and Student Success (CLASS) provides official documentation of approved accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These letters indicate a legal obligation of the university to support students in a manner specific to their disability that allows them equitable access to the learning environment. If you have any questions about the impact these requests have on your class, please reach out to the CLASS Office.
  • Title IX Supportive measures – address issues that might fall under our Title IX or Interpersonal Violence support policies may come from the Office of Institutional Equity, Title IX, or the Safe Office. Communications may also reference policies supporting pregnant or parenting students.

In all cases, students will benefit from hearing that you support them in taking care of themselves and that you care about them as human beings. They look up to you and respect your opinion. In most cases, we will not share the specifics of the student’s medical or mental health condition. This helps to maintain their privacy, as well as protect your role as faculty. We are happy to work with you to ensure you can support students without compromising the essentials of their academic experience.

If you have questions or concerns about any student situation, please feel free to contact one of us.

E. Ashley Hairston
Associate Dean for Academic Advising

Michael Shuman
Director, Center for Learning, Access, and Student Success

Jessica Bass
Associate Director, Safe Office

Warrenetta Mann
Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellbeing

Aishah Casseus
Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Equity