Student Handbook - Eating Disorder Protocol

The Union College Wellness Center has coordinated services to provide a team approach when caring for students dealing with anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders. A multidisciplinary team approach is used as this is considered best practice for treatment of eating-related concerns on college and university campuses. The team consists of representatives from the fields of medicine, psychology, nutrition, and athletics who work collaboratively with the student toward stated goals. 

Team Membership

  • Mental Health Representative
  • Health Center Representative
  • Dietician
  • When applicable: Athletic Trainer, outside consultation with an Eating Disorder Physician/Specialist

The three core members would meet on a regular basis, the frequency of these meetings would depend on the needs of the individual student.

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is suspected when a student exhibits problematic behaviors relating to weight, eating habits, exercise and body image. These types of behaviors may include restricting intake of food, rapidly consuming large quantities of food in an uncontrolled or compulsive manner (binging), over-exercising, and persistently using a mirror to check for areas of “fat”. These behaviors are often accompanied by critical thoughts about oneself and negative emotions such as sadness, guilt, or anxiety.

 For more information about eating disorders and how to recognize the signs and symptoms, please visit the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) website.

The Treatment Team’s Approach towards Recovery

The multidisciplinary team approach is intended to assist students in their recovery efforts and may involve the student attending counseling sessions (individual and group appointments as available and appropriate), as well as nutritional and medical appointments.  The team will work collaboratively with the student to formulate a plan of care, taking into account the student’s individual goals.  Once a plan is created, the student is responsible for scheduling and attending these appointments.  It is critical in being proactive in scheduling these appointments to guarantee being seen. The recovery from the eating disorder must be a top priority to the student, and he/she should understand that at times sacrifices may need to be made and/or new things that may be unfamiliar will be tried. It is necessary for the student to sign consent forms allowing the various treatment providers to consult with one another to ensure optimal care.  Additionally, successful treatment requires the cooperation and involvement of the student’s family and/or guardian. The student is encouraged to share information regarding treatment with them as it is deemed appropriate by the Team.  Should the student’s health and well-being be in jeopardy, their family and/or guardian will be notified and included in the referral process to a more intensive treatment program.

Elements of the Individual Assessment and Treatment Plan

  • Weight: A safe body weight will be maintained. Goal is to maintain a BMI (body mass index) greater than or equal to 18 and not fall below 85% of Ideal Body Weight. The student understands that he/she needs to achieve the weight goals set by the team. Weights will be monitored at the Wellness Center as determined by the team. 
  • Vital Signs/Labs:  Monitoring of vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, and body temperature) as well as drawing labs for electrolytes and other values will be performed on the recommendations of the team. Abnormalities in vital signs including low blood pressure, low pulse, and low body temperature as well as laboratory abnormalities will be assessed along with weight to determine medical stability.
  • Exercise: The student understands the necessity of adhering to any limitations or restrictions placed on his/her level of physical activity/exercise. If a member of an athletic team or club sport, he/she understands she may be excluded from participation on the team.
  • Nutritional Counseling:  Attendance at nutritional counseling sessions and adherence to the meal plan prescribed by the dietician is an essential component of treatment.
  • Psychological Care:  The student is expected to schedule and attend counseling sessions as recommended by his/her counselor. This may include group counseling sessions. If a co-existing mental health condition is identified, he or she will be referred for consultation with the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

If a student under the care of the Treatment Team elects not to attend appointments and/or follow the individualized treatment plan, the parents/guardian will be notified by a Team Member by phone and certified letter.

Identification and Referral

Any student concerned about his/her own eating patterns, weight or related issues can consult with the Treatment Team by initiating contact with the Wellness Center at 518-388-6120.

Frequently, members of the campus community will have a concern about a particular student. Whether faculty, staff, or a student, a concerned individual can share his/her concerns with staff at the Health Center, Counseling Center, or at the Dean of Students’ Office.  This discussion may include the signs and symptoms noticed and advice may be given as to how the individual can best talk to the student of concern and how to refer him or her for an assessment if indicated.

If the concerned party is uncomfortable approaching the student of concern about a referral or assessment, or if their efforts have been unsuccessful, a Team member, likely a Student Health or Counseling staff member, may intervene on his/her behalf. If indicated, the Director of Student Health or Counseling will notify the student that there is a concern for the student’s health and safety. The student will then be asked to schedule an appointment for an evaluation by a member of the Treatment Team.

If the student about whom there is a concern is unresponsive, or if it is determined during this process that there is a significant and immediate risk to self, a member of the Treatment Team will contact the parents/guardian by phone and certified letter. 

Administrative Consultation and Review

The Dean of Students may be involved in situations where a College decision needs to be made, such as addressing behavior that brings into question the student’s ability to function safely or successfully in his/her role as a college student due to a significant medical or psychological impairment. After consultation with the Treatment Team, the Dean of Students may: (1) refer students to the Treatment Team, (2) make a student’s enrollment contingent on following the recommendations of the Treatment Team, in accordance with the College’s Medical Withdrawal Policy, if the student continues to be at risk to self, and/or (3) make decisions if the student has not scheduled an appointment, as described above, in a reasonable time period.

The first priority for anyone at the College is the student’s well-being and keeping the student enrolled, if appropriate. In the instance where a student is: (a) disruptive to the community, (b)  continuing to evidence self-harming behaviors, and/or (c) there are other violations of the College Conduct Policy, the Dean of Students may make decisions about the student’s eligibility for continued enrollment such as a medical leave of absence or interim suspension.   
Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act Report in accordance with the requirements of the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, Union College prepares an annual report on its intercollegiate men’s and women’s athletic program participation rates and financial support data.  The report is on file with, and may be obtained by any student, prospective student, or member of the public from, the Office of the Athletic Director.

Please also see the Union Athletics Department Compliance Website (Compliance Resources-EADA Report)