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Yale Accused of Discriminating Against Mentally Ill Students

December 1, 2022

Yale students and alumni are suing the university for allegedly discriminating against students with mental health issues, The Washington Post reported.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges that Yale officials visited students hospitalized for suicide attempts or other psychiatric illnesses and pressured them to withdraw voluntarily from the university—or risk being kicked out. The suit includes accounts from two current students, three former students and an alumni group representing dozens of others, the Post reported, and is seeking class action status from the U.S. District Court of Connecticut.

An international student named in the lawsuit recalls that three Yale administrators visited her in the hospital after she attempted suicide in 2020. When she refused their request to disenroll, they withdrew her involuntarily, the lawsuit recounts, allowing her to retrieve her belongings only with a police escort and to say goodbye to her friends only off campus.

Another student alleges that Yale repeatedly denied her requests for disability accommodations for an eating disorder and depression—accommodations she believes are mandated by law.

In a separate action on Wednesday, Democratic Massachusetts senator Edward Markey asked the federal government to issue new guidelines for colleges and universities to prevent discrimination against students with mental health issues and other disabilities.

In a letter to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, Markey urged a rethinking of “involuntary medical leave of absence” policies, which “can be coercive and exclusionary for some students,” he wrote. “No student should be denied access to education because of their disability.”

Yale has defended its treatment of mentally ill students while vowing to re-examine its approach.

“The university is confident that our policies comply with applicable laws and regulations,” Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said in a statement. “Nonetheless, we have been working on policy changes that are responsive to students’ emotional and financial wellbeing.”

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Susan H. Greenberg

Susan H. Greenberg is a senior editor at Inside Higher Ed. A career journalist and educator, she joined the publication in August 2021 after eight years in Vermont, where she freelanced and taught writing at Middlebury College and Champlain College. Prior to that, she spent 22 years writing and editing for Newsweek magazine, where she covered everything from international affairs to arts and culture. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and River Teeth, among others. She has taught English and journalism at Phillips Academy, where she served as an advisor to the student newspaper. She holds a B.A. in English from Brown University and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia. The mother of three nearly adult children, she is very much enjoying her newly empty nest.

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