Lucas Holt, Senior Photographer

The Yale College Council passed a proposal in November encouraging the Yale College Dean’s Office to explicitly allow residential college deans to permit mental health issues as a valid reason for an extension. Now, that proposal is being put into action. 

The YCC’s resolution came in response to pushes on campus to prioritize mental health, which students ranked as the number one issue they cared about seeing addressed in the search for Yale’s next president in a report conducted this January. 

Through collaborations with the Yale College Council, the Yale Student Mental Health Association and the Yale College Dean’s Office, students can explicitly use mental health as a valid reason to request a dean’s extension in the 2024-25 academic year. Dean Pericles Lewis confirmed with the News on Tuesday that changes would be made to the regulations for next academic year following YCC recommendations and advocacy. 

“We are putting a small revision in the regulations…We did it on the basis of a recommendation from the Yale College Council,” Lewis wrote in an email to the News on Tuesday.

But in a message to the News on Wednesday, Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd emphasized that the amended language does not represent a policy change. According to Boyd, this practice has been “longstanding and remains unchanged.”

“Mental health reform has been a priority for the YCC and other campus groups,” Yale College Council Vice President Maya Fonkeu ’25 wrote to the News. “We’ve seen firsthand how poor systems of support have negatively impacted the mental health of students, faculty, staff, and community members. I’m happy to see that Yale is listening to years of advocacy and is taking steps in the right direction towards creating a more healthy campus.” 

In 2019, the official guidelines for work missed during the term in the Yale College Programs of Study changed from “incapacitating illness” to “incapacitating illness or condition of any kind” in an effort to incorporate mental health, Yale College Council Sophomore President and Health and Accessibility Director Mimi Papathanasopoulos ’26 told the News. 

However, the lack of clear language in the former dean’s extension policies made granting extensions for mental health crises variable across the different residential colleges. 

“[It’s important] to say in writing [that] mental health also qualifies here,” member of Elis for Rachael Zach Dugue told the News. “The strength of the decentralized dean system is also its weakness. Each Dean [can be] different.” 

The proposal cited other universities that have also adopted explicit policies regarding mental health extensions for academic work, including Stanford University and the University of Edinburgh. 

At Stanford, extensions are available for “students dealing with fluctuating and unpredictable periods of exacerbations of their condition associated with chronic illnesses or mental health disabilities.” 

The University of Edinburgh offers coursework extensions to students dealing with “recent short-term mental ill-health” or “a long-term or chronic mental health condition which has recently worsened temporarily or permanently.”

Papathanasopoulos said that since the proposal was passed in November, students began meeting with administrators and urging them to officially implement it, emphasizing the importance of mental health in the ability to conduct work. 

“We applaud these important changes that will reassure students that their mental health challenges will be taken seriously,” member of Elis for Rachael Paul Johansen ’88 told the News.

Yale Mental Health and Counseling is located at 55 Lock St.

Correction, April 5: A previous version of this article did not specify that the language change makes it explicitly allowed and has been updated to include comments from Lewis and Boyd.

KAITLYN POHLY
Kaitlyn Pohly is a sophomore in Silliman College. She serves as the Student Life Reporter for the University Desk and previously reported on Student Policy and Affairs. Originally from New York City, Kaitlyn is a History major. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, Kaitlyn dances with YaleDancers.