Yale is finally fixing a controversial policy after months of criticism

After months of ongoing dispute over Yale College’s mental health withdrawal policies, Yale has finally agreed to comprehensive reforms.

Last spring a student-led council submitted recommendations to improve the policies — which some students have said are too vague and make them feel cut off from their school when they’re already vulnerable.

Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway launched a committee in the fall to address some of these concerns, and he shared the committee’s report on Tuesday, the Yale Daily News (YDN) reported.

“The committee’s recommendations are comprehensive: they introduce terminology, adjust timetables, ease financial burdens, enhance communications, take advantage of current technology, and more,” Holloway said in an email to YDN. “Taken together, the recommendations greatly improve the policies on withdrawing from and returning to Yale College.”

Under the old policy, students who withdraw for mental health reasons must complete two courses while away from Yale and receive at least a “B” in the courses. They must also demonstrate that they are “constructively occupied” during their time off from Yale in order to gain readmission.

Some changes were simply for optics. For example, Yale is replacing the term “readmission” with “reinstatement” in an effort to make students who withdraw feel they are still a part of the Yale community and don’t need to re-apply.

But others were more substantive, getting at the root of complaints about Yale’s so-called rigid policies that some argue hurt, rather than help, students suffering mental illness.

Students will be allowed to petition for a leave of absence rather than a withdrawal any time before the last day of the course selection period, according to the YDN. This would provide an extension of five days in the fall semester and six days in the spring. A leave of absence doesn’t carry the same requirements for reinstatement that a withdrawal carries and was a main point of contention among some students.

And perhaps in an attempt to improve some of the most scathing critiques of Yale’s insensitivity and the arguably tone-deaf nature of its policies, the committee emphasised the need for better communication, and suggested ways which the college could improve communication between students and administration.

That may work to relieve some of anger directed at Yale by students who have withdrawn from school.

“I’m kind of mad at Yale all the time. I want to respect their decisions, but I have not seen any reason to, because they haven’t explained any of the reasons behind any of their decisions,” Eugenia Zhukovsky, who withdrew from Yale last semester, told the YDN in April.

Students and parents anxious to see the roll out of the new policies will need to be patient, as the recommendations won’t be fully implemented until spring 2016.

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