A lawsuit against Yale claims that the Ivy League school has not adequately supported and accommodated students with mental health issues.
In a 41-page complaint filed by two current Yale undergraduates and the mental health advocacy group Elis for Rachael, the university is accused of discriminating against students with mental health disabilities, even requiring them to drop out after they exhibit severe symptoms.
Describing his struggles at Yale in the midst of a mental health crisis, Yale alumnus and plaintiff in the lawsuit, Rishi Mirchandani, told CNN, “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.”
Student Called a ‘Liability’
When students exhibit significant signs of a mental health problem, authorities pressure them to take “voluntary” leaves of absence for one or two terms, warning them that failing to do so would result in an “involuntary” withdrawal, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit further states that students who resign from the institution are prohibited from visiting campus and participating in any campus events without the university’s prior approval, including in-person summer classes that are available to non-students.
There are instances, the complaint alleges, in which students were required to have a police escort with them when they went to campus housing to retrieve their belongings after being dismissed from the university.
Students who leave for disability-related reasons — either voluntarily or involuntarily — frequently lose some or all of their tuition, room, and board payments, depending on when they withdraw, as well as their student health insurance.
One student listed in the lawsuit alleged that university administrators called her a “liability.” The plaintiff claims that Yale representatives visited her in the hospital after she overdosed on aspirin in her junior year and pressured her to leave freely or allow the school to withdraw her against her will.
Because she could not afford the classes Yale required of her to return, the student withdrew and earned her degree from another institution.
Karen Peart, Yale’s interim vice president for communications, told the Yale Daily News that the university is confident that its policies comply with relevant rules and laws and that it considers students’ “safety and health, especially when they are most vulnerable” when making decisions and developing policies.
A group made up of Yale student affairs professionals and mental health specialists has been meeting since September 2022 to continue reviewing the university’s withdrawal and reinstatement policy, the university stated. This group is preparing to introduce policy changes gradually to help students.