Reconsidering Policies: A Case Study on Hardship Withdrawals and a Student with a Psychiatric Disability

Date Updated


Suzanne is a junior with a psychiatric impairment. She had an episode of depression, which resulted in her inability to attend classes for several days. Due to her absence, she fell behind in her coursework and petitioned to drop one of her three classes as a "hardship withdrawal."

Access Issue

Suzanne's hardship withdrawal petition was denied on the basis of the university's policy. The policy did not allow another hardship withdrawal based on the same condition for which a previous hardship withdrawal was approved. Suzanne had received a hardship withdrawal three quarters earlier because she missed a week of class as a result of being hospitalized for her disability.


Suzanne met with the disabled student services director to voice her concerns about the hardship withdrawal policy. She felt the policy was unfair because it did not consider the special circumstances resulting from her disability. The disabled student services director contacted the associate registrar to discuss the situation. The associate registrar approved her hardship withdrawal petition as a disability-related accommodation after he received more information about her psychiatric impairment and current situation.


This case study illustrates the following:

  1. University administrators should consider making exceptions to policies because of disability-related circumstances. Procedures should be put in place for requesting that exceptions be made.
  2. Students with psychiatric and other disabilities may require flexible withdrawal policies as an academic accommodation.
  3. Successful accommodations are often best reached through collaboration between the student, disabled student services, and campus administrators.