Yale University has made major changes to its medical leave policy that will allow students struggling with mental health problems to take time off—rather than withdraw—and to return to campus when they’re ready, without reapplying, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Yale has come under fire in recent months for what students suffering from psychological distress have described as callous treatment. Students and alumni sued the university last fall, alleging that Yale officials pressured students experiencing suicidal ideation to withdraw or risk being kicked out. They also had to reapply to be allowed to resume their studies.
By allowing Yale students to take a leave of absence for a mental health crisis instead of forcing them to withdraw, the new policy ensures that they have continued access to health insurance through the university, the Post reported. Students are also allowed to be on campus—which they were not under the old policy—meaning they can hold campus jobs, meet with career advisers and use the library, among other things.
With rates of anxiety and depression continuing to increase among college students, the change reflects a shift in campus thinking about mental illness not as a security threat to be eliminated but as a disability that requires accommodation.
Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis told the Post that Yale wants “to make clear to students their first priority in dealing with mental health problems should be mental health. And obviously we want people to be able to continue their education.”
He added that the goal of the policy change was to “make it seamless for people to be able to return” and to avoid treating students taking a mental health leave the same way as those on leave for disciplinary violations.