Was Yale University too eager to look after the health of their students? A 20-year old history major has recently brought to light that she was threatened with suspension for months for being too skinny. Frances Chan, a New Jersey native, stands 5-feet and 2-inches tall and weighs 92 pounds, but insisted that she was not suffering from an eating disorder.
In September, Chan visited the school’s medical department after noticing a breast lump. The lump was benign, yet officials emailed her to visit the clinic again, as they had other concerns since her last visit. University officials demanded Chan to attend counseling for her non-existing eating disorder and to gain weight, or else suspension would follow.
Chan was asked to go through a series of tests, including urine tests, blood tests and mental health counseling, but even though all results suggested that she was a healthy woman, Yale University insisted that she gained weight. Chan says, “The appointments I attended were not optional, as they demanded that I would come. They even told me that if it was up to the administration, I would already be out of school and that they were just trying to help.”
Chan, who comes from a skinny family, saw only one option. “I asked my friends what they do to remain slim and I did exactly the opposite of that.” To stop Yale University threatening her with suspension for her weight, the student force-fed herself for months; however, being skinny is in her genes. “I ate large amounts of carbs and three or four scoops of ice cream every night before I went to bed. I also ate cookies and stopped taking the stairs, just to avoid burning calories,” she says. The student gained merely two pounds.
The torture, starting in September last year, became difficult to deal with for Chan, who felt stressed enough with school work and exams. She decided to involve her parents, who sent Yale University officials medical records from Chan’s younger years. Chan says, “If I continued to eat like that, I was going to develop an eating disorder without a doubt. I resented eating at one point.”
After months of bingeing on cookies and ice cream and her family’s physician reassuring the school that Chan’s skinny body is in her genes, Yale University admitted to have made a mistake.
Studies have suggested that eating disorders in young people usually begins during their college years. With 35 percent of normal dieters turning into pathological dieters and 20 to 25 percent of those developing an eating disorder, officials wonder if Yale University was really too eager in Chan’s case or if it was a logical step. Their concerns derived from Chan’s BMI, which is a scaring 16.8. The normal BMI for a woman ranges between 18.5 and 24.9, but Chan says Yale University must stop paying attention to this number. “It is right for Yale to monitor the health of their students, but there should not be a blind reliance on the BMI as a primary indicator of physical health,” she says.
In an essay, written by the Yale University student, she says the school plays a similar role as fashion magazines, teaching its students about the correct shape of the human body. According to Chan, being skinny because of family genes should not be a reason for threatening students with suspension.
By Diana Herst