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University reaches settlement in Americans with Disabilities case
The university has recently settled a lawsuit involving a student who was removed from Quinnipiac due to her mental health, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
The university agreed to pay the student $17,000 for emotional distress and $15,126.42 to pay off a loan she received in order to attend Quinnipiac. The university has also created a policy “stating that it will not discriminate against applicants or students on the basis of disability,” the press release said.
The student was put on mandatory medical leave from the university after seeking mental health counseling for depression at the Health Center. The university denied her request to refund her tuition after she was removed.
The student spoke to the Hartford Courant anonymously. She told the Courant she visited the Health Center in the fall of 2011 as a freshman, when she struggled with the transition to college.
“I think every freshman has days when they are just like shell-shocked,” the student told the Courant. “I thought it was better to see someone than to be stressed by myself. My mother told me people were here and I could go there and I could talk to them.”
The university sent the student to St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven, with an envelope containing a letter saying she could not return to campus until she was assessed by a university-designated psychiatrist, according to the Courant.
“I was really shocked and hurt,” the student told the Courant. “I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go back to my room to get my stuff. Why was I considered such a danger when the hospital was letting me out? I felt kind of stupid and kind of like a failure. I felt like I had just ruined my entire life in one day.”
The student has since enrolled in another university, according to the Hartford Courant.
Junior Megan Megill said she thinks it’s crazy the university removed the student due to her struggles with depression.
“She was coming to them for help and they just said ‘go see someone else, you’re not allowed here’” Megill said. “I just think that would make her even more depressed.”
Senior Connor Rice said he would have sued the school as well if he were in a similar situation.
“I think that’s just wrong that the school did that in the first place,” he said. “I mean that’s a problem someone’s having and they basically just shunned [her] and kicked her out; I don’t appreciate that whatsoever.”
Forty-four percent of American college students report having symptoms of depression, but 75 percent of college students do not seek help for mental health issues, according to Healthline.com.
The university violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by placing the student on a mandatory medical leave of absence without considering options for the student’s continued enrollment, according to United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre M. Daly.
The university did not consider revising its medical leave policy when removing the student.
“Quinnipiac removed this student from the university at a very vulnerable time in her life, and saddled her with a large student loan payment,” Daly said in the press release. “We’re pleased that Quinnipiac has settled this matter, compensated the complainant and will implement a non-discrimination policy to help prevent this ADA violation from occurring in the future.”
University administration, however, said the university’s ADA standards are some of the highest in the country. The university also said it was not contacted by the U.S. Department of Justice prior to the publishing of the press release.
“The university is in full compliance with the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. In fact, our ADA standards exceed those of most academic institutions,” Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs said in a statement. “Out of respect for the confidentiality of the student involved, we will not comment further on this case. We regret that a government agency did not show similar respect for the student and circulated this press release without ever contacting us.”
Junior Emily Amodeo said there should have been alternatives to removing the student from the university.
“We’re here to help. We’re a community, we’re a student body,” Amodeo said. “They should’ve sent her for help but let her stay at the school still. They should’ve helped her out with this, not kick her out of the university.”