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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Wave of Activism at Yale Leads to Revisions in Mental Health Policies

A group of strangers started meeting on Zoom in the weeks after the death of Yale freshman Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum in 2021.

Some of them had already met Ms. Shaw-Rosenbaum. She had been struggling with suicide thoughts and was debating the repercussions of hospitalisation, but few people understood her private struggles.

A doctor in her forties who had been hospitalised following a suicide attempt and been advised to withdraw from Yale described the experience as cold and impersonal, “like you’re being processed through this big machine.”

A classical pianist in his twenties who suffered from hypomania and melancholy left Yale because he felt “not just excluded but rejected and cut off and forgotten about.”

The Elis group, named after Rachael, had a common complaint: Yale’s strict policies on mental health leaves punished students at their most vulnerable times by forcing them to withdraw without a guarantee of readmission, taking away their health insurance, and keeping them off campus.

A legal settlement was reached last month as a result of the organising that started on that day, greatly simplifying the procedure of obtaining a medical leave of absence at Yale.

Students will now have the opportunity to purchase an additional year of insurance coverage under the new plan. They will not be fired from their positions on campus or denied access to college facilities. The student’s healthcare provider’s view will be given more weight upon their return from leave, making the process of returning from leave easier.

Most notably, Yale has conceded to an often-requested student accommodation—part-time study—in the event of certain medical circumstances.

The Washington Post looked into Yale’s withdrawal policy in November of 2022. A class action complaint was launched against the institution the same month by Elis for Rachael, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability.

Legal difficulties regarding mental health regulations are not exclusive to Yale University. Brown and Princeton have being probed by the DOJ for their withdrawal policies, while Stanford was hit with a similar class-action complaint in 2019.

Ms. Frantz, now 26, attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and earned an M.F.A. in poetry. She currently works as a coach for students writing admissions essays. She felt “a little light touch of mourning of what could have been if they had been more prompt.”

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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