I. What the Dean’s Excuse Covers
A Dean’s Excuse is a paper form signed by the residential college dean that authorizes the postponement of written work or exams during term-time.
There are three kinds of late or postponed work: (1) work late during term time; (2) work incomplete at the end of term; and (3) postponed final examinations. Instructors of courses may, during term time, give permission to make up late or missed work, provided that such work is submitted before the end of term. Please keep in mind that if you do not feel comfortable discussing your situation with your professor you should contact the Dean directly.
It is important to be aware of your instructors’ authority to postpone work, since a Dean’s Excuse can be issued only in the following instances, which are outlined in the Academic Regulations of Yale College, here: http://catalog.yale.edu/ycps/academic-regulations/completion-of-course-work/.:
- Incapacitating illness or incapacitating condition of any kind
- Death of a family member
- A comparable emergency
- Observance of religious holy days
- Participation in varsity intercollegiate athletic events
Dean’s Excuses must be requested promptly. In any of the five cases above, then, notify me as soon as you are able via email or a call to the Dean’s office.
Because the language of the academic regulations is necessarily efficient and judicious, it cannot account for every situation. And so if you think you may qualify for a Dean’s Excuse, but you’re not certain whether your circumstances fit under one of these categories, please come talk with me as soon as possible.
It is also important to know that Dean’s Excuses can only extend deadlines: they cannot excuse absences, whatever the reason. If you must miss class, it is your responsibility to notify your instructor.
Work Incomplete at the End of Term
The rules governing the postponement of work at the end of term are different than those governing the postponement of work during the term. Only residential college deans can authorize extensions for work or make-up examinations after the close of the teaching term (i.e. after the end of reading week). Without WRITTEN permission from me, you will not to be able to postpone a final examination or any other end-of-term project, or regular course work due late in the term itself, regardless of whether the instructor has given you permission.
II. When You Might Request a Dean’s Excuse
1. Death in the family
If you must hand in an assignment late or miss an exam or quiz because of a death of a near relative, see me.
2. Incapacitating illness or incapacitating condition of any kind.
If you are too ill to work, your first priority is to get immediate medical attention. Your health should be your main concern, not your schoolwork. Please inform me about your condition as soon as you are able (an email is fine), and then after you’ve seen your doctor or have been released from the hospital, and once you are no longer contagious, see me to reschedule the work you missed.
3. A comparable emergency
Use your judgment, and if you have any questions, please ask.
4. Off-campus varsity competition
If you are a varsity athlete who must represent Yale at a competition and you have to miss an exam because of it, see me to reschedule. Bear in mind that for papers, problem sets, and other assignments that do not require your presence on campus, you’ll need to plan ahead: we deans aren’t authorized by the faculty to postpone work in such cases.
5. Observance of religious holidays
If you have to take a test or hand in work on a religious holy day, see me to reschedule.
Since I can only issue dean’s excuses within a reasonable period of time after the emergency or conflict, it is crucial that you inform me right away. In any of the five cases above, then, let me know as soon as you are able (a quick email or call will do) so that I am aware of your situation and can help out if you’re running into trouble. I can also help you contact your instructors.
III. When You Won’t Get a Dean’s Excuse
If you have an ouchy papercut, or if you are exhausted after staying up all night playing Mario Kart, or if you’re overwhelmed by the cuteness of this, then your circumstances won’t fall under the five categories listed above. Nor do interviews, travel for weddings, academic conferences, or extracurricular activities. But if you have any questions about whether your situation does fit those criteria, please talk with me.
IV. What To Do When You Can’t Get a Dean’s Excuse
1. Talk to your instructor
Dean’s excuses reschedule coursework deadlines, or test dates, but only in certain circumstances (see above). Dean’s excuses do not cover absences of any kind. This is particularly important to remember in courses where attendance counts, such as foreign language classes. In those cases, you need to work directly with your instructor to determine how your absence may affect your grade, and what you can do to ensure you cover the material you missed. If the only issue is attendance, there is no role for a dean’s excuse. The good news is that though the faculty allows deans to postpone work only under a narrow band of circumstances, your instructors do have the authority to excuse any work, including in-class work, during the term. If your instructors have questions about this policy, you should refer them to me. (Remember that most courses that require attendance also have a certain number of allowed absences. Guard these jealously so that you can cash them in when necessary.)
2. Plan ahead
Like a blizzard on the horizon, you can see the dark storm cloud of work ahead, and it blows in on the same week when everything else is due. These overloads are especially common if you’re taking a heavy load of classes or engaged in numerous extracurricular activities. You’re going to get swamped with work, especially during midterms and the end of the semester, and you may even have to take a number of midterms together in one clump. Again, there’s no role for a dean’s excuse here. It pays to map out your workload ahead of time and spot conflicts and crunch times early. And remember that although I can’t write a dean’s excuse in these situations, your professors can grant you an extension during term time (not past the end of reading period) if they choose. If you need help making a work plan or thinking about how to talk to your instructors, please let me know. I can help you strategize and prioritize. If things get cataclysmic, you always have a way out of a jam: you can drop a course until the last day of classes (before reading period begins). If you drop the course before midterm, nothing appears on your transcript. But prepare for the storm now.
3. Strive for balance
Did you manage to land a role in a play? Are you performing in a singing group? Attending a conference? Going to a med school or job interview? These are all great things. So much of the Yale experience occurs outside of the classroom, and the opportunities here sometimes seem limitless. But remember that such opportunities may come at a cost. Extracurricular activities may cause you to miss class or run out of time to do your work. You may ask your instructor for an extension for late work–generally the sooner you ask the better–but you must do it sans the dean’s excuse.
4. When in doubt, see me
Some students are under the mistaken assumption that dean’s excuses are like dining hall swipes and that each student only has a certain number. Not true. Dean’s excuses are issued as needed according to the guidelines above. You are not limited in the number of dean’s excuses you can get at Yale, nor are you guaranteed one just because you have never had one. It all operates on the guidelines set forth above.
And how do you get the actual piece of paper? Come by the office once you are no longer contagious and Mere will give you a Dean’s Excuse Request Form. Fill it out so that I have all of the information about the work that you have missed, then set up an appointment. Once we meet and I review your Request, I can issue the actual dean’s excuse if appropriate. I will not approve any extensions via email. Note that most dean’s excuses are issued after the deadline. So if you get ill on a weekend, or you can’t meet with me right away, turn in that work as soon as possible and let your instructor know that you’ll be requesting a dean’s excuse.
V. One last but vital bit of information
Instructors can grant extensions any time during the term on their own authority, but everything changes at the END of the term. All assignments, other than term projects or term papers, are due by December 12, 2019. Any extensions that go beyond the Reading Period – that is, beyond December 12th at 5 pm - for any outstanding work (except for term projects or term papers) can be issued ONLY by me.
In the case of term projects and term papers only, your instructors can assign a deadline as late as the last day of final exams, but not beyond that date. Only deans can extend such work. If you have any questions about the legality of a deadline, see me well before the work is due.
Similarly, only deans can issue extensions for make-up final exams or term projects/papers. Without written permission from me to extend work past these deadlines, you risk receiving a failing grade for the course. So please be careful.
I hope that your term goes smoothly and that you have no need for a dean’s excuse, but if you do, now you know how they work. As always, if you have any questions dean’s excuses or anything else, please see me. To make an appointment, call 203-432-0397 or just come by the office and talk with Mere.
My very best wishes for a healthy and happy semester!