Ever met a “re-admit”? That is, someone who mysteriously (or not always so mysteriously) disappeared from school, took a year or two off and then just re-emerged on campus. If you haven’t already, you probably will someday. Based on the number of re-admits that I’ve met, I think we are a substantial population at Yale; maybe not the most visible, but we definitely have a presence. I have applied for re-admission five times. To put it into context, I medically withdrew from Yale College in fall 2001, applied for re-admission in both spring and fall 2002 (and was denied), returned to Yale in spring 2003, had to withdraw medically again in fall 2004 and then returned to Yale after two re-admission rejections. I don’t apply for re-admission as a hobby. Managing a severe mental illness — bipolar disorder — isn’t the easiest thing at Yale. And neither is the withdrawal and re-admission process.
For re-admission from medical withdrawal you must take two college classes and earn at least a B or better in them; you must write a personal statement of 2-3 pages; you must have two recommendations from either professors or supervisors from work; sometimes they ask for a letter from your doctor; and you must have interviews. In my case, this last time, I had an interview with my residential college dean, the chair of the Committee on Re-admission and the chief psychiatrist of Yale University Health Services. That is the bare bones process of re-admission.
When I was rejected from re-admission in spring 2006, several people were furious — not only me and my parents — but also my psychiatrist and my former employers. My parents and I were disappointed for the obvious reasons. My private psychiatrist was flabbergasted by the decision: I had been completely stable for close to a year; I had a very mild episode that was easily taken care of the summer before. “Euthymic,” which means “normal,” was the word she used to describe me under her care in her letter to the chief psychiatrist. She wrote to the chief psychiatrist expressing her disagreement with the decision. My employers at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research were pretty angry, too. My head supervisor wrote in a letter questioning the decision to the committee. In the interviews, I was told things looked “positive.” But I was rejected. Not only did I feel discriminated against and like I was being treated as a liability because I was a student with mental illness, but I also felt the committee was disingenuous. When we asked the committee for specific criteria for re-admission to help clarify my rejection, we were not given a straightforward answer. There is a serious lack of transparency in the re-admission process.
Another aspect of the withdrawal and re-admission process that needs serious improvement is how students just get forgotten — dropped — after they have to leave Yale. It is, to say the least, extremely disorienting to have to leave school and reorient your life, especially after something like being hospitalized for the most severe manic episode of your life, subsequently followed by a hospitalization for a depressive episode. The frantic search for a job begins after you leave; it’s not the easiest thing to find a job. Yale, I feel, should at least help you in reorienting yourself by helping you find a job. You still are a student, even if medically withdrawn. After all, they did just kick you out of school and completely change your life course. I was interviewed by TIME Magazine for an article on students who have to leave school due to mental health difficulties. I was not quoted in the final article, but there is an apparent trend — colleges are kicking out their more “troubled” students and sometimes not letting them back in.
Thankfully, I was let back in this semester. But there were still hassles. I didn’t find out until Aug. 23 that I was going to be re-admitted. I was told that on-campus housing would not be guaranteed. When I was told there was housing available, I didn’t want to live on campus because all that was available through my college, Trumbull, was a double in McClellan. Because I am a senior, and I also have bipolar disorder and absolutely need to stick to a routine sleep schedule to prevent an episode, I wanted a single. So that gave me two weeks to find an apartment.
Those who go through Yale’s withdrawal process are treated as sub-students. Many students who withdraw leave for mental health reasons. I find the resulting reapplication process discriminatory. Students with mental illnesses deserve better.
Naasiha Siddiqui is a senior in Trumbull College.