Yale announces “momentous” changes to leave of absence policies amid ongoing

Yale Daily News

Over a month ago, mental health advocates and current students filed a lawsuit — which has since moved to settlement discussions — alleging that Yale’s policies discriminate against students facing mental health issues, especially those who take time off. 

In the midst of conferences between the University and the plaintiffs, who are set to have a second meeting Thursday, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis announced on Wednesday a slate of changes addressing numerous issues that have been persistently raised by mental health advocates. These include the reclassification of medical withdrawals as medical leaves of absence, as well as relaxed reinstatement requirements for students who take time away from school for their physical or mental health. 

“Part of the purpose of these revisions is to give students the sense — and the reality — that, if they choose to spend time at home, that will not be a problem for them to come back and also that if they stay on campus, we’re supporting them as much as we can,” Lewis said.

Yale’s withdrawal and reinstatement policies have long been a source of student ire, especially as criticism of University mental health care policies has come to a fever pitch in the last two years. The University made some amendments to the reinstatement policy in April 2022, removing the coursework and interview requirements that students had previously been required to fulfill for readmission to Yale. Before that, the last major overhaul was in 2016, when the name of the process was changed to “reinstatement” from “readmission.”

Director of Yale Mental Health and Counseling Paul Hoffman told the News that the new policies for leave represent “real significant change.” Hoffman specifically pointed to students’ ability to now remain on Yale’s insurance when on leave for mental health issues as a “critical” part of these changes. 

“I see this as being a fairly momentous change, a monumental change, in the leave of absence policy,” Hoffman said. “I really hope it helps students to take care of themselves and not feel like they are getting caught between a lot of arcane rules.”  

While many of the changes represent a victory for campus mental health advocates, Tuesday’s development also codifies the University’s ability to require students to take involuntary leaves of absence — a primary concern addressed in the lawsuit. 

The policy states that Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd can require a student to take an involuntary leave of absence if she concludes that there is a significant risk to the student’s health and safety or to the health and safety of others and that no available accommodations can “adequately reduce the risk or disruption.” 

This evaluation will also include consultation with Hoffman or the Chief of Student Health. If a student is placed on involuntary leave, they will have seven days from the notification to appeal to the Dean of Yale College.

Medical withdrawal now classified as medical leave of absence, ushering in new benefits for students

Previously, students who wanted to take time off after the 15th day of the semester for any medical reasons, including mental health, underwent a process known as “medical withdrawal.” Students on medical withdrawal lost access to many of Yale’s resources and opportunities, including Yale Health insurance coverage. Leave of absences, on the other hand — which students of “good academic standing” can decide to take before the 15th day of the semester for up to four semesters total — allows students to retain health insurance through Yale, visit campus and take summer classes. 

Per Tuesday’s changes, medical withdrawal is now classified as “medical leave of absence,” and now comes with many of the benefits previously exclusive to leaves of absence. These benefits include healthcare coverage through Yale Undergraduate Affiliate Coverage, opportunities to work student jobs and access to other resources including the Office of Career Strategy and Yale’s libraries. According to Boyd, these new benefits would not be possible without the change in classification. 

With medical withdrawal removed as an option, there remain three types of withdrawal: financial,…

News Read More: Yale announces “momentous” changes to leave of absence policies amid ongoing

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