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Missing Class, Illness, Short- and Long-Term

Students who encounter short-term medical issues or instances of personal distress/emergency can seek academic support if needed.

  • For short-term incapacitation, you should use an Incapacitation Form
  • For longer-term incapacitation, personal emergencies, or absence from a final exam, you should consult with your academic dean to discuss accommodations and support


You are expected to notify your instructors if you become incapacitated due to a short-term illness or injury that prevents you from completing an assignment, exam, quiz, presentation, lab, or any graded work; or from attending a class where attendance is required.

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 Incapacitation Form in such instances.

Appropriate uses of the Incapacitation Form 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 an Incapacitation Form (see also "Missing Class, Long-term or Chronic Illness).

Note: The Incapacitation Form is only a notification, indicating that you cannot complete an assignment on time due to an incapacitating illness or injury.  When you submit an Incapacitation Form, 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 Incapacitation Form 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.)

The Incapacitation Form should only be used for reasons related to your health. An Incapacitation Form submitted for any other reason will not be accepted by the instructor.  Incapacitation Forms are monitored by your academic dean, who will refer cases of abuse to the Office of Student Conduct.  

For Students

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

  • You are in the best position to judge whether you are too incapacitated to complete an assignment or exam at the designated time.
  • You will only use the Incapacitation Form for reasons related to your health and then only if your illness is truly incapacitating.
  • 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."

This is what you should do:

  1. Consult the DukeHub website to view your class schedule to obtain the name and number of the course and the name of the course instructor.
  2. Complete the secure online form (to be found at the end of these instructions) and submit it.  An email to your instructor will be generated, with a copy sent to you, and a copy will be available to your academic dean. 
  3. Submit the Incapacitation 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 Incapacitation Form prior to the class in which the graded assignment is due or will occur, if at all possible.
  4. Within 48 hours of submission of an Incapacitation Form, 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 absence if you fail to meet the 48-hour deadline and can treat it as an unexcused absence or late work.
  5. Avoid obtaining any information about a graded exercise that would give you an unfair advantage over other students taking the course.  Your instructor may want to use the same graded exercise that the rest of the class completed.
  6. Your electronic signature on the form affirms your compliance with the Duke Community Standard.

Incapacitation Form

Notes to Instructors:

  1. Please require the use of the Incapacitation Form for all absences due to incapacitating illness when graded work is missed. The Incapacitation Form provides a means of documenting student absences. This record is used by the academic deans as a basis for evaluating problematic absences, and identifying students in need of support.
  2. The Incapacitation Form only allows a student to address the form to one instructor.  If you have a team taught course or TA's, give clear instructions to students as to whom they should send the Incapacitation Form.
  3. You have a right to expect students who submit an Incapacitation Form 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 may be treated as late or unexcused.  
  4. Do not accept an Incapacitation Form as valid if it has been used for any reason other than incapacitating illness. 
  5. If you suspect that a student is abusing the Incapacitation Form policy, you should bring this to the attention of a student's academic dean. Or, refer the matter directly to the Office of Student Conduct for investigation.
  6. For a student who has excessive absences and missed work such that he/she is no longer able to meet the learning objectives of your course, you should bring this to the attention of the student's academic dean.  In such cases, the use of the Incapacitation Form would be inappropriate and unacceptable.  A student may be asked to withdraw from your class, or be given a failing grade. 

A note about the final exam period: See Final Exams, Absence From

Last updated: Jan 8, 2020