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Students get their day in court against Yale over mental health policies

Commencement on campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
Beth Harpaz

Advocacy groups representing Yale University alumni and current students are in federal court Thursday to negotiate a possible settlement with the university. They filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut in November over university policies that allegedly discriminate against those with mental health concerns.

Yale University issued a letter to all students on Wednesday, informing them of updates the school has made to its policies, which the plaintiffs say are not good enough and remain at the center of the legal battle.

The letter from Pericles Lewis, the dean of Yale College, outlines several changes to the school’s policy, including leaves of absence, as well as medical leaves of absence and academic and personal withdrawal.

In the letter, Lewis acknowledges that students have had to take time away to deal with either personal or family issues, saying he wished that “no students ever had to face situations like these, but some of you may.”

“I hope these revised policies ease any concerns about your student status,” he wrote. The university declined to comment further.

The changes address students who have received a mental health diagnosis and were previously shut out from school housing and cut off from university resources.

The updated policy gives all students access to the university campus, as visitors and guests, and allows them to participate in limited ways in student organizations.

The reinstatement process has also been simplified, removing the need for students to be re-interviewed as part of their return to school.

“These policies are a step in the right direction, but this case raises concerns that have yet to be addressed,” Elis for Rachael, a nonprofit created after the death of Yale student Rachael Shaw Rosenbaum, and a plaintiff in the legal case against Yale, said in a statement.

“We remain in negotiations. We thank Yale for this first step, but if Yale were to receive a grade for its work on mental health, it would be incomplete at best,” the group said.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.