Yale University Drops Threat to Kick Out Student for Being Too Skinny

A 92-pound Yale University student has finally ended her face-off with school officials who spent months insisting that she either gain weight or be suspended. And Frances Chan, 20, who contends she never had an eating disorder to begin with but is simply genetically thin, could not be more relieved.

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“It felt really bad to be this powerless,” the student told the New Haven Register Sunday. “I ate ice cream twice a day. I ate cookies. I used elevators instead of walking up stairs. But I don’t really gain any weight.”

Chan’s problems with the Ivy League school began back in September, when she went to Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven to have a breast lump checked. Though the lump was benign, it led to Yale Health, the student health center, scrutinizing her general health and, in particular, her low weight.

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“I met with a clinician on December 4 and was told that the ‘concern’ was my low weight and that I would meet with her for weekly weigh-ins. These appointments were not optional,” Chan writes in an essay about her experience, “Yale University Thinks I Have an Eating Disorder,” published by the Huffington Post in March. “The clinician threatened to put me on medical leave if I did not comply.” She goes on to explain that she’s “always been small,” just like the rest of her family.

“We all enjoy Mom's fabulous cooking, which included Taiwanese beef noodle soup, tricolor pasta, strawberry cheesecake, and cream puffs, none of which make the Weight Watchers shortlist,” she writes. “I just don't gain weight easily.” Chan could not be reached for comment by Yahoo Shine.

Yale University spokesperson Tom Conroy tells Yahoo Shine in an email, “Federal health regulations (HIPAA) prohibit Yale from discussing the health care of any individual, whether it's a student or an employee, so we are unable to comment on Frances's care.” But, he adds, “Yale provides exceptional health care services, and the health and welfare of all of our students is our primary concern.”

Chan says that since December she has had a slew of medical checkups, weekly weigh-ins and urine tests, and several blood tests and mental health appointments. On March 29 she posted a frustrated update on her Facebook page. “Yale Health's Medical Director in email to my father: ‘She does not have the option of refusing to cooperate with our assessment of her health and safety.’ So I do NOT have the option of refusing dehumanizing medical treatment?! Looks like someone needs #consentworkshops.” Despite plying herself with high-calorie foods, she gained just 2 pounds, which, she was told, was not enough — even though her parents contacted officials to explain that their daughter had always been thin and healthy.

“It seems like assumptions were being made based on her appearance, and that it was very discriminatory. Low BMI doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy,” clinical psychologist Maria Rago, vice president of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, tells Yahoo Shine, adding, “Even if you have an eating disorder, you have a right to go to school.”

Rago notes it’s clear the university means well. “But eating disorders are more about your behaviors and your thoughts than your weight,” she explains.

Finally, though, after Chan's struggling with weigh-ins, pleading with doctors to not place so much emphasis on her body mass index, and eventually writing to university President Peter Salovey to apprise him of the situation, officials relented.

“Just visited Yale Health with my parents and met with a new doctor. She apologized repeatedly for the ‘months of anguish’ I went through and admitted that BMI is not the end all be all,” Chan posted to her Facebook page on Friday. “She also looked at my medical records since freshman year (which the previous clinician had not done) and noted that she saw that my weight had remained around the same. So she trusts that I do not have an eating disorder and admitted that ‘we made a mistake.’”

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