Hunter Settles Suicide Suit
On Wednesday, lawyers representing a former honors student at Hunter College of the City University of New York announced that the institution has settled a lawsuit, which centered on its treatment of students with mental health issues.
The case, which was filed in federal court on behalf of a woman who was not identified, resulted in a $65,000 settlement for her. In a letter accompanying the settlement, lawyers for the institution indicated that the college’s “suicide policy” is “under review,” and may be changed to be less punitive toward students who attempt suicide.
Currently, the policy indicates that a student who tries to take his or her life is automatically barred from living in the institution’s dorms, and must leave campus for one full semester after the semester in which he or she is banned. “[S]tudents with psychological issues may be mandated by the Office of Residence Life to receive counseling,” according to the policy.
Richard Kadison, director of mental health services at Harvard University, said Wednesday that such policies are uncommon and “risky” because they don’t allow for individual circumstances that may make such stipulations unreasonable and potentially harmful to students.
Rita Rodin, a spokeswoman for the CUNY system, confirmed the settlement, but said that she could not offer any comment regarding Hunter College’s review of its suicide policy.
The settlement comes amid lots of discussion about college policies involving suicidal students. On Monday, court hearings began in a lawsuit began against Allegheny College by the parents of a student who hanged himself in 2005; they contend that his counselor had a responsibility to prevent their son’s suicide. Also ongoing is a suit headed toward trial against George Washington University, in which a student is seeking both damages and reform of the university’s policy of expelling students who express suicidal thoughts.