After months of mandatory weigh-ins, stern finger waggings from campus health officials, and stress over her academic future, Yale University has graciously agreed to stop trying to kick twenty-year-old history major Frances Chan out of school for being too thin.
Chan's story paints a picture of Yale's student health services department that it sounds almost too draconian to be true. According to the New Haven Register, Chan first started getting hassled last fall, after she went to health services to get a breast lump checked. She was fine, but at 5'2" and 92 lbs, her BMI fell in a range that the school considered freak out worthy. And freak out Yale did.
Since December, Chan has had multiple medical appointments and mandatory weigh-ins. She met with a nutritionist and a mental health counselor, as well, to determine whether she might have an eating disorder. She said a nurse told her at one point that her low weight would kill her if she didn't do something about it.
Worrying about student health is one thing, but Chan swears being extremely thin runs in her family, and Yale went totally batshit overboard. Chan's family doctor sent her health records to student health services, her parents explained that the whole family is a bunch of skinny minnies. Chan says that in an attempt to gain enough weight to satisfy the school, she would stuff her face with all kinds of Bridget Jones sad montage foods like Cheetos and ice cream and do bad-for-you things like take the elevator instead of the stairs. But it wasn't enough.
When she started looking into what was happening to her, Chan found something curious. She wasn't the first person Yale did this to. In an essay for the Huffington Post, she writes,
It seems Yale has a history of forcing its students through this process. A Yale Herald piece from 2010 told the story of students in similar situations. It's disturbing how little things have changed. "Stacy" was "informed that if she kept failing to reach [Yale Health]'s goals for her, she would be withdrawn for the following semester." Unfortunately, "the more she stressed out about gaining weight, the more she lost her appetite."
Furthermore, a recent graduate messaged me saying that her cholesterol had actually gone up due to the intensive weight-gain diet she used to release herself from weekly weigh-ins.
After the HuffPo piece ran, others who went to other schools who relied heavily on BMI to determine which students were healthy enough to attend school without medical supervision reached out to Chan. And it seems like it's a more widespread problem than one might like to imagine; a disheartening number of schools are too focused on BMI when they should be focusing on GPA.
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