Yale is one of several prestigious universities that have come under scrutiny in recent years for their punitive policies around student mental health, often banishing students from campus if they exhibited signs of mental illness. In response to a lawsuit, Yale updated its policy to allow students to take leaves of absences instead of withdrawing, and to allow students to continue receiving health coverage and have access to university facilities and resources during leaves.
Yale has one of the earliest established student-run peer support groups in the country, which offers both a confidential hotline and walk-in center. Disability Empowerment for Yale (DEFY), an organization of disabled students at Yale, is currently working with the administration to establish a Disability Cultural Center on campus.
Reporting by the Yale Daily News in 2021 on students' frustrations with Yale's mental health services echoes the sentiments we're hearing from Yale students in 2023, suggesting that things haven't improved much. According to the Yale reporter, "All of the students interviewed expressed frustration, disappointment and anger over inadequate mental health resources for students, including weeks-long wait times for appointments and lack of capacity for comprehensive, consistent care. Overall, students expressed feeling like the quality of their support is sacrificed in an MHC effort to get through the long line of student demand."
Despite having one of the highest ratios of psych counselors to students among all universities we surveyed, students tell us that it can take anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months for an initial appointment with counseling services, which is not surprising given the high demand for services on campus.
More than half of Yale students use psych services at some point during their time at Yale. And the positive psychology course, Psyc 157, "Psychology and the Good Life," is the most popular class in Yale history. It's telling that Yale has only an 80% retention rate of students returning after their first year, which is extremely low for a university ranked in the top 5 in the US.
The Yale Well website offers helpful guidance on how to recognize signs of distress, which can include “difficulty maintaining focus,” “extreme anxiety,” and “withdrawal from routine activities and relationships” -- without resorting to fearmongering or stigmatizing language. Although Yale does not have an online report form for Students of Concern, the Yale administration does advise faculty, staff, and families to report distressed students to the dean for monitoring.
It is noteworthy that Yale no longer employs Bandy Lee, whose pseudo-scientific and stigmatizing work associating mental illness with violence has been criticized by disability advocates and even members of the American Psychiatric Association. We recommend that Yale students follow the work of Marco Ramos, an assistant professor at Yale who has a lot more interesting things to say than Bandy Lee.
The number of sexual assaults reported on campus in 2021 (the latest available data) was several times higher than the national average! This may not be surprising to people who know that Brett Kavanaugh is a Yale alumnus.
“I left primarily because Yale could not keep me safe,” she tells EdSurge in an interview this month. Simmons says she wants others to learn from her experience, which she argues is part of a pattern of well-known institutions that are failing to value and protect employees of color. “This is a persistent and pervasive problem in academe—and in many other institutions that were founded on whiteness. Many of us leave silently, and in our silence we become complicit.”
Simmons had been at Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence for more than six years, starting off as associate director of school initiatives, then moving into a director of education role and finally becoming assistant director of the center.
Even before the Zoombombing, she says she faced abuses by colleagues on the basis of her race, including “constant non-consensual hair touching” that made her feel exoticized. She had become a prominent speaker at conferences—including giving a TED talk—but says she was also told by a supervisor that the only reason people wanted to hear her ideas was because she was associated with Yale.