As noted, academic units have a legitimate interest in ensuring that students are fit for continued enrollment in their academic programs and, in certain academic programs, that students are fit for professional practice. When student misconduct or unsatisfactory performance raises fitness questions, the academic unit should focus on the conduct, behavior or performance issues rather than the potential underlying root causes of the problems.
Generally, it is rarely ever appropriate for an academic unit to insist that a student undergo a mental health examination or that a student comply with specific treatment plans. Intrusion into students’ medical conditions and treatment is discouraged for several reasons. First, federal and state disability laws prohibit both discrimination based on actual disabilities and discrimination based on perceived disabilities even if the student does not have a disability. To avoid liability for perceived disability discrimination, it is recommended that academic units focus on student behaviors and performance and not make assumptions (that could be wrong) about the causes for the behavior or performance. Second, faculty, administrators and staff are rarely equipped with the necessary professional training and experience to properly diagnose or treat students, or to interpret treatment records. It is recommended that when an academic unit has concerns about a student’s fitness, the faculty and/or staff member consults with the University’s mental health professionals and refers students to the appropriate resources. Third, students have a right to privacy regarding their medical conditions and treatment records. In addition, as adults they have the right to manage their mental health conditions as they see fit. Academic units risk undermining their professional relationship with students by assuming a therapeutic or parental role.
However, there are appropriate ways in which an academic unit can respond to a student who raises fitness concerns. Each school and college should have academic standards, technical standards, and conduct policies that are designed to address student misconduct and unsatisfactory academic or professional performance. Student misconduct can be addressed through the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which describes behaviors that are inconsistent with the values of the University community, outlines procedures to respond to such behavior, and suggests appropriate sanctions/interventions. Schools and colleges should use those established standards and policies rather than supervising or managing the student’s medical condition.
In addition, in the case of a health or safety emergency, academic units should notify and consult with the Dean of Students Office or the Rackham Dean’s Office regarding appropriate interventions which may include Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) consultation, contacting parents or other responsible adults, voluntary hospitalization, involuntary hospitalization, or removal from campus.