Yale negotiates settlement in mental health lawsuit

Yale negotiates settlement in mental health lawsuit

Karen Lin, Senior Photographer

Content Warning: This article contains references to suicide.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a helpline for people in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified auditor, call 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak to a qualified auditor, text HELLO to 741741. It’s free, available 24/7 and confidential.

To speak with a counselor from Yale Mental Health and Counseling, schedule a session here. On-call advisors are available anytime: call (203) 432-0290.

Students wishing to make a medical withdrawal should contact their residential college dean.

Additional resources are available in a guide compiled by the Yale College Council here.


Mental health advocacy group Elis for Rachael and two current students deposit a class action court case against the University last week, alleging that the University discriminates against students with mental health disorders through unfair practices and policies, particularly with respect to withdrawal and reinstatement.

A week later, in a December 7 movement, Yale and the plaintiffs asked the court to stay all proceedings while they engage in settlement discussions. Ahead of this motion, Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis told the news on Tuesday that changes are expected in the spring that will address some of the complaints about lawsuits over the withdrawal and reinstatement policies, but it is not yet. clear whether the referenced changes were in anticipation of settlement negotiations.

“The parties have agreed to suspend litigation while they discuss ways to resolve the complaint and achieve their mutual goals,” states a joint statement from the plaintiffs and the University.

In the original complaint, plaintiffs and proposed class members are entitled to and have sought an injunction, which in this case would be changes to the University’s mental health policies and financial compensation to cover attorneys’ fees. The proposed class, in this case, is “all Yale students who have, or have a history of, mental disorder and who are harmed, or reasonably fear to be harmed, by the unlawful policies and practices challenged in this lawsuit.”

Amid this, the students have expressed support for the News for the lawsuit and see the settlement negotiations as an opportunity for long-awaited change at Yale.

Dereen Shirnekhi ’24, organizer of Students Unite Now, wrote to the News that she feels solidarity with students and alumni struggling with inaccessibility at Yale. Shirnekhi is a former News staff opinion columnist.

“Mental illness can be debilitating and the lack of proper care is often more dangerous for students marginalized along racial and class lines, so reducing ourselves to accountability by removing institutional support makes matters worse,” Shirnekhi told the News. , “Yale should heed this lawsuit and listen to the needs of students first. I’m so frustrated that students have to fight so hard at Yale for the resources we need to stay at Yale to learn and thrive – from resources that Yale can afford, just as it was able to afford the elimination of the contribution charged to student income.

The 41-page lawsuit filed last Wednesday by the plaintiffs alleges that Yale’s policies discriminate against students with mental disorders, in violation of the American with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation, Fair Housing Act and Patient Protection Section 1557. and Affordable Care Act.

The complaint also includes accounts from students and alumni about their withdrawal and reintegration experiences at Yale, often comparing them to Yale’s leave policies. A leave is a process initiated by a student where he decides to take a leave before the 15th day of the semester. Withdrawal, however, is a process where students leave after this point, sometimes involuntarily. Unlike furloughed students, withdrawn students are not guaranteed a place at Yale afterwards.

The complaint asserts that University policy permits involuntary withdrawals for disability-related symptoms, including threat to self, but ignores that withdrawal may cause further harm to a student. Additionally, the memoir describes how the University often makes students feel encouraged — and even coerced — into taking “voluntary” time off.

The plaintiffs allege that Yale imposes unfair policies on those who withdraw, including prohibiting withdrawing students from visiting campus or participating in activities and requiring them to leave campus within 48 hours. There is no similar prohibition for students taking leave.

One of the two current students acting as plaintiff, Hannah Neves ’23, describes being escorted by police to her room to collect her belongings before leaving for a withdrawal.

These stories of unfair practices for those opting out also include calls for Yale not to operate exclusively as a “full-time school” and allow part-time enrollment as an accommodation for a health disability. mental.

Peyton Meyer ’24, one of the co-directors of the Yale Student Mental Health Association, wrote that this request is particularly important because it gives students the option of remaining fully enrolled or leaving altogether.

“For some students, staying enrolled with a part-time course load to have more time to deal with their mental health might be the best option, but at this time it’s not allowed,” Meyer wrote to the News.

One of the complaint’s other central concerns is the loss of healthcare options for students who drop out. The complaint details how students who leave within the first fortnight of the semester have their health insurance terminated, and those who leave after the first fortnight only remain insured for 30 days.

The plaintiffs also described the reinstatement process as “intimidating,” comparing it to Yale’s undergraduate admissions process. The current reintegration policy, which was amended in April without announcement to students, requires an application form, two letters of support and a personal statement.

However, news of the settlement negotiations comes at a time when administrators told the News they were working to change Yale’s withdrawal policies to address such complaints.

When discussing the withdrawal and reinstatement changes that will come early next year, Lewis said a committee is reviewing the lawsuit’s concerns and changes will be announced early in the new year. He added that these committees were formed this summer but “are also paying attention to new information”.

Lewis also highlighted while speaking to the News the University’s dedication to student mental health.

“The mental health of our students and their well-being in particular, avoiding suicide is absolutely critical to our thinking about this,” Lewis told the News, “We are very sympathetic to the situation of anyone facing a lot of stress while they’re college and we try to make sure everything we do reflects that care for our students.

Settlement negotiations also raise questions about the extent to which settlement discussions can change the experience of students facing mental health crises, given a Case at Stanford in 2018. The Stanford case was led by the same lawyer, Maia Goodell LAW ’06, which ended in a settlement.

Before the lawsuit at Stanford, students were required to take involuntary leave if there was a ‘significant risk’ to the health and safety of the student or others, but after the policy was amended as a result of the lawsuit, students considered for involuntary leave can choose whether or not they want to take a leave of absence.

The recent lawsuit at Yale came amid protracted students concerns on access issues at Yale Mental Health and Counseling and followed a recent Washington Post article highlighting students’ and alumni’s experience with Yale’s withdrawal and reinstatement policy, and in a time when students remain

The University responded to the article by defend Yale’s, through a letter to the editor written by Lewis and Hoffman, and a statement made by university president Peter Salovey.

Meyer wrote that, in combination with the Washington Post article, the lawsuit drew attention to Yale and pressured them to adjust reinstatement policy.

However, he wrote that it was “misleading” for Yale to provide a percentage of reinstatement requests approved for medical withdrawals broadly, and not specifically those related to mental health reasons, nor was he agree more with the University’s response in its letter to the editor. that the article has fostered dangerous beliefs that students should stay in school no matter what.

“I think it’s more the current re-entry policies that do that,” Meyer wrote to the News, “The Washington Post article simply amplified the voices of students who deserve to be heard.”

MHC has two locations at 55 Lock Street and 205 Whitney Avenue.


Sarah Cook covers politics and student affairs, and she previously covered President Salovey’s Cabinet. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, she is a sophomore at Grace Hopper majoring in neuroscience.

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