Yale Revamps Medical Leave of Absence Policies

Yale University announced its new policies on Jan. 18, almost two months after students sued the university alleging discrimination against people with mental health disabilities.
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  • The new reform addresses many critiques from the student-led lawsuit against Yale in November 2022.
  • Students on medical leaves of absence have unlimited time to return to Yale.
  • The new reform specifies different leaves of absence and increases transparency into each process.

Yale University students are getting the mental health reform they called for back in November.

According to The Washington Post, Yale University sent an email to students on Jan. 18 notifying them of changes to the mental health policies for leaves of absence.

Yale announced the changes one day before a meeting with students from Yale and Elis for Rachael, a nonprofit student advocacy group, according to the Post.

The policy change comes almost two months after a lawsuit on mental health reform from two Yale University students and Elis for Rachael on Nov. 30.

The lawsuit alleged that Yale pressured students to take "voluntary" leaves of absence and that the consequences of medical leaves are isolating and unfair to students with mental health disabilities.

Yale's new leave of absence policies respond to the lawsuit's call to action on dorm move-out, isolation from campus, health insurance, part-time enrollment, and ease of return to the university.

Elis for Rachael responded to the changes by saying, "We thank Yale for this first step. But if Yale were to receive a grade for its work on mental health, it would be an incomplete at best."

Yale's new policies revamp, specify, and expand the old policies by changing terminology and adding new categories of leave and methodology transparency in prescribing medical leaves.

Changes to Yale's Leave of Absence Policies

Leaves of Absence

  • A student is allowed up to four nonconsecutive semesters of leave of absence.
  • Students can still be employed at Yale and participate in part-time coursework.
  • Students have access to Yale's remote library and student email.

Medical Leaves of Absence

  • Yale lists the process and staff a student must go through for a voluntary and involuntary medical leave of absence, unlike its previous policy.
  • Yale allows students of any academic standing to take medical leave at any point in the semester.
  • A student's residential dean will guide them through the process of medical leave.
  • A medical leave of absence is typically granted.
  • Yale calls an involuntary medical leave of absence a very rare case.
  • A student's medical leave of absence will NOT count toward the four nonconsecutive semesters of voluntary leave of absence.
  • Students are allowed to be employed at Yale and participate in part-time coursework.
  • Students on medical leave can be on campus as guests or visitors and participate in student organizations and undergraduate activities as a guest. However, they cannot hold leadership positions or do university-sponsored international travel.
  • Students have access to Yale's remote library and student email for three years after leave starts.
  • Students can enroll in Yale summer session classes.
  • Students have 72 hours instead of 48 hours to leave campus.
  • Students enrolled in health insurance can stay enrolled for one year.

Coming Back to Campus

  • "Students wishing to return from medical leave may request to do so when they feel ready," says the policy. "This may be in keeping with the timeline recommended when they went on leave but need not be. There is no limit to the number of terms a student may be on medical leave."
  • Students on an involuntary medical leave of absence are typically away for one year. They may request to return earlier than their prescribed date.
  • A student must return at the beginning of a fall or spring semester.
  • Materials a student must complete to be reinstated:
    • A Reinstatement Request form
    • A brief 500- to 750-word statement
    • Medical letter from a clinician
  • Students away for more than four semesters must have completed two courses during leave, either through the summer session or another four-year college or university.
  • Yale removed its "interview" terminology to a "meeting" where students must meet with university officials to determine their readiness to return to campus.


  • Academic, disciplinary, and personal withdrawal have no time limits to how long a student may be withdrawn.