Shouldn’t one of the top colleges in the country know that the Body Mass Index (BMI) is just a guide, not a whole diagnosis? Apparently not at Yale, though perhaps they’re now learning. Frances Chan, 20, has been fighting with the college over how much she weighs, as though it’s their business. The 5-foot-2-inch history major weighs 92 pounds.
That’s not enough for Yale. They wanted her to put on weight, convinced she had an eating disorder. She insisted that she didn’t and that she was just thin, which should have ended the whole thing, but did not. The college’s health center harassed her, ordered her in for weekly weigh-ins, and they threatened to put her on medical leave, telling her she’d die if she didn’t gain more weight. What they wouldn’t do is apparently actually listen to her, so she took to the Huffington Post to write an essay about the torment:
She had finally cracked me. I was Sisyphus the Greek king, forever trapped trying uselessly to push a boulder up a hill. Being forced to meet a standard that I could never meet was stressful and made me resent meals. I broke down sobbing in my dean's office, in my suitemate's arms afterwards, and Saturday morning on the phone with my parents. At this rate, I was well on my way to developing an eating disorder before anyone could diagnose the currently nonexistent one.
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 "Stacy" was "informed that if she kept failing to reach [Yale Health]'s goals for her, she would be withdrawn for the following semester."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.
The New Haven Register picked up on the story this week and reports that after all this nightmarish treatment, Chan finally got a doctor to acknowledge that BMI is just one indicator of proper health and the school finally seems to grasp that she does not have an eating disorder. They’re still going to force her come visit the health center for monitoring, but only once per semester. She should consider herself lucky!