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March 20, 2003

For some, military service means early end to semester

Communication studies professor Barbara O’Connor has seen five of her students trade in their book bags for duffel bags this semester and put their education on hold to help out in the war against Iraq. For many it is a proud, but anxious and bewildering time in their lives.

“They’re asking ‘What happens to me now? How do I finish my degree? How do I cope with this?'” she said.

For some the answer is withdrawing from classes. Overall, more than two dozen service men and women have opted to withdraw from the University, and that number is expected to rise.

“It will be interesting to see what those numbers are like in another month,” said Tom Griffith, director of academic advising.

The University, he said, provides a simple withdrawal process that allows any student to withdraw, no questions asked, up to three weeks before the end of classes. The deadline this semester is April 25.

“Generally, the University reasons that when a student wants to get out of all their classes, they are having a major crisis in their life,” Griffith said. “For that reason the University makes it as easy as possible.” For students who withdraw after the second week of classes there are steps to follow such as paying processing fees and meeting withdrawal deadlines.

“The one exemption is a student who has orders to active duty,” Griffith said.

Under federal guidelines, those students are exempt from some of the rules. They receive a full refund of fees regardless of when they withdraw, they do not have to pay the processing fee, and they can withdraw up to the last day of classes.

Griffith said that advisers suggest that those seeking a withdrawal for military reasons consider taking an academic leave of absence as well. This allows a student to take up to two years off and still return and complete their degree under their current catalog year. This allows them to avoid any new University or department requirements that may have been imposed in their absence.

Although the withdrawal process is easy, it does mean that a student must start the semester over from scratch when they return from active duty.

“Many of them don’t want to withdraw,” O’Connor said. “They don’t want to waste the time and effort they’ve already put in this semester.” As a result they are asking professors for incompletes and trying to find ways to complete the coursework outside of class.

“It’s a dilemma,” she said. “How do you agree to something like that not knowing when they’ll ever be able to complete it?”

For more information about student withdrawals, visit


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