Academic Policies & Procedures for Undergraduates

Illness, Short- and Long-Term


Students are expected to notify their instructors when they become "incapacitated" due to an illness or injury that prevents them from completing an assignment. Acting in accordance with the Duke Community Standard you should use the Short-Term Illness Notification Form (STINF) only when genuinely incapacitated.

Definition of Incapacitation:
An incapacitating illness or injury is one in which a student is hospitalized, under medical care for a short-term condition, or otherwise sufficiently debilitated as to be unable to perform basic academic tasks. Colds, headaches, or other such mild complaints that result in your feeling less than 100% are not considered incapacitating, and you should not use the STINF in such instances. Appropriate uses of the STINF might include such conditions as influenza, migraine, sinus infection, and strep throat.

For longer-term issues such as mono, a broken leg, or a chronic illness, consult your academic dean to discuss whether it is appropriate to use a STINF. See also "Long-term or chronic illness" below.

The STINF should only be used for reasons related to your health. A STINF submitted for any other reason will not be accepted by the instructor. The STINF is monitored by the academic deans of Trinity College and the Pratt School of Engineering, who will refer cases of abuse to the Office of Student Conduct.

Note: The STINF is only a notification, indicating that you have missed class and/or cannot complete an assignment on time due to an incapacitating illness or injury. When you submit a STINF, it is your responsibility to meet or otherwise communicate with the instructor of the course in question within 48 hours to discuss your missed work and how it will be treated in accordance with the instructor's policy. If you do not contact your instructor within 48 hours following the date the STINF was submitted, the instructor is under no obligation to accommodate your illness and can treat your missed work as unexcused. Exceptions to the 48-hour deadline may be granted by the student's academic dean in extraordinary circumstances.

Faculty survey regarding STINF use and managing missed work

In April 2012, the Trinity College Dean's Office conducted a faculty survey that asked individual instructors about how they managed their students absences from class, missed exams, and submission of late work. It also queried faculty on students' use of the Short-Term Illness Form (STINF) in their courses. Read the survey results.

A note about the final exam period: Given the time limitations inherent in completing end-of-semester assignments or making up a missed final exam, the STINF procedure cannot be used during the final exam period. You are expected to take final examinations at the scheduled times and to complete end-of-semester work by the deadlines set by the instructor unless an extraordinary circumstance interferes. If you encounter an extraordinary circumstance during exam week, contact your academic dean directly as soon as possible, preferably before the scheduled assignment or exam.


The short-term illness notification procedure is based on these operating principles:

  • You are in the best position to judge whether you are too ill to complete an assignment or test at the designated time
  • You will only use the STINF for reasons related to your health and then only  if your illness is truly incapacitating but not for minor inconveniences such as colds and normal headaches.
  • You will act in accordance with the Duke Community Standard, in particular that provision stating that you will not "provide false or misleading information in order to be excused from classes or assignments."

For Students:

Here's how the system works:

  • Consult the ACES Web site to view your class schedule to obtain the name and number of the course and the name of the course instructor.
  • Complete a secure on-line form (to be found at the end of these instructions) and submit it. An e-mail to your instructor, with copies sent to you and available to your academic dean will be generated automatically. 
  • Submit a Short-Term Illness Notification Form to your instructor as soon as possible once you realize that your short-term illness has become incapacitating. Instructors expect you to submit the short-term illness form prior to the class in which the graded assignment is due or will occur if at all possible.


Your electronic signature on the form affirms your compliance with the Duke Community Standard.

Within 48 hours of submission of a STINF you must meet with (or otherwise contact) the instructor to discuss how you can be accommodated under the circumstances in accordance with the course policy. Your instructor is under no obligation to accommodate your illlness if you fail to meet the 48-hour deadline and can treat it as an unexcused absence or late work.

Since your instructor may want to use the same graded exercise that the rest of the class has completed, you are obligated to avoid obtaining any information about that graded exercise that would give you an unfair advantage over other students taking the course.

For Instructors:

  • Please require the use of STINF for all absences due to incapacitating illness when graded work is missed. The STINF provides a means of documenting student absences. This record is used by the academic deans as a basis for evaluating problematic absences.
  • The STINF form only allows a student to address the form to one instructor.  In team-taught courses or ones with TAs, students should probably be given clear instructions as to whom they should send their STINFs in your course.
  • You have a right to expect students who submit a STINF to meet (or otherwise communicate) with you within 48 hours to talk about how you might accommodate their  missed work in accordance with your course policy and to discuss the implications of missing a class or deadline for submission of work. If a student fails to meet the 48-hour deadline, you are under no obligation to accommodate the student , and his/her missed work can be treated as unexcused. 
  • Do not accept a STINF as valid if it has been used for any reason other than incapacitating illness.
  • Bring to the attention of a student's academic dean any instances in which the instructor believes the student may be abusing the procedure. In cases of suspected abuse of the system the dean may refer the matter to the Office of Student Conduct for investigation.

Long-Term or Chronic Illness:

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences recognizes that some students will enter Duke with a chronic illness, or will develop a medical condition that persists; such conditions may have an impact on academic life as well as campus life. If you have a chronic illness or persistent medical condition, you should contact your academic dean and inform her or him of the situation. Your academic dean will assist in planning how to manage your situation.

Instructors: Please refer a student with chronic illnesses to his/her academic dean and/or notify the appropriate academic dean of a student who seems to be struggling with long-term illness.

See also
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