Yale University Reaches Settlement In Students’ Lawsuit Alleging Severe Discrimination

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Sarah Wilder Social Issues Reporter
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Yale University on Friday settled a lawsuit brought by students and an advocacy group alleging discrimination against students with mental health issues.

Current students and the mental health reform group, Elis for Rachael, filed the lawsuit against Yale and its governing body in November 2022. The lawsuit alleged the school forced students with mental health disabilities to leave Yale by asking them to take a “voluntary” leave of absence and hinting they would face “involuntary” withdrawal if they did not comply.

“I think that Yale tends to wash its hands of cases of mental illness that are too severe because they don’t want to be associated with that student. They want the student to deal with their issues anywhere except Yale’s campus,” Rishi Mirchandani, a former Yale student and one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, told CNN in December. “And in some instances, taking time off is a healthy decision. In other cases, it separates students from their primary support group.” (RELATED: Yale Doctor Says All Health Care Professionals Should Wear Body Cameras To Catch Them Being Racist)

The university agreed to revise its policies surrounding students with mental health issues, allowing some students to take classes on a part-time basis to accommodate their medical needs. Yale will also provide “mental health counselors training on providing culturally competent mental health services” to its students, according to the agreement, which has yet to be approved by the Connecticut federal court.

“Yale College staff in student-facing positions, including but not limited to residential college deans and SAS staff, will receive annual training on disability law, reasonable accommodations, and best practices (including the non-exhaustive list of available accommodations and how to request them), and Yale College’s medical leave policies and resources available from the Office of Student Affairs,” the filing continues.

“[The agreement] goes so much further than hollow word changes and minor adjustments [Yale has] made in the past,” an anonymous Yale College student who is currently on medical leave said in a Friday press release from Elis for Rachael. “Particularly getting rid of ‘being constructively occupied’ and instead saying to focus on your health, which should have always been the goal of a medical leave instead of jumping through hoops. It truly made my day reading the changes to policy that would have made all the difference to me.”

Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis said he hopes the updated policies “will make it easier for students to ask for support, focus on their health and wellbeing, and take time off if they wish, knowing that they can resume their studies when they are ready.”