In defense of off-campus housing, the city

Graduate school dormitories are not the only places where community is fostered. Like Ms. Bolin (“Grad students need a safe place to live,” 11/4), I too am concerned with the safety needs of students at Yale. I lived in a dorm (the Hall of Graduate Studies) during my first year at Yale and enjoyed interacting with all sorts of interesting people. However, Ms. Bolin’s passionate argument for more and better University dormitories strikes me as wrong and perhaps a sign of the distance between law and other graduate and professional students.

Ms. Bolin claims dormitories build community and that, by devoting relatively few resources to graduate housing, Yale has “disregard for our community will.” I am not sure whose will she is speaking of, but community at Yale can be found in bunches of places: the office, the lab, the coffee shops, the dinner parties with friends we’ve grown to love over the long haul. Shoving a bunch of students together and forcing them to eat bad dorm food sounds more like a recipe for creating social misfits than a way to instill community.

Ms. Bolin cites the law dorms at Stanford and Harvard for comparison, but those universities reside in two of the priciest housing markets in the nation. In such a situation, it is in the university’s best interest to supply bountiful housing, because otherwise grad students would not be able to afford to live there.

Such is not the case with Yale and New Haven. Prices are not low here, but copious options exist that do not force you to sign away your firstborn.

Most law students are in New Haven for eight months of the year. As such, they are more “consumers of education” than full-time residents of the city. Ms. Bolin has a legitimate complaint about not having enough housing options that cater to academic-year residents, and it is quite startling how much the law dorm has shrunk over the years.

Having an instant-made “community” may be more of a necessity for transient law students. However, grad student choose to live in apartments, houses, their offices, etc. We graduated college a long time ago and having a place to call home while engaged in dissertation work, TA-ing and the like helps keep us sane. We live in New Haven year-round, for two to three times longer than law students. Grad students have families, cars, acres of books and liquor collections that all need space to breathe, which few dorms provide.

With regards to safety, is New Haven less safe than cities with similar socioeconomic characteristics? I do not have an answer, but I know Yale could do better in terms of street lighting and making students feel safe. It does seem students are more fearful than they were four or five years ago. I cannot help but note that bunkering down in dorms seems to be an overreaction. And I would guess that with so many law students moving on to New York City or D.C. upon graduation, perhaps these should be the halcyon days of enjoying relatively clean and crime-less living in those nether regions beyond York and Wall.

Ms. Bolin asserts that the “grad ghetto” area of town is “dingy, run-down and falling apart.” For five years I have resided in the grad ghetto, delighting in the rows of turn-of-the-century houses, jogging the tree-lined streets and grabbing coffee at Nica’s and Cafe Espresso. I see faculty members with children, locals with real nine-to-fives and every manner of person associated with Yale living in a real neighborhood. Not every town can be Princeton or Palo Alto, but thank your lucky stars that New Haven is not. We have a real city with real bars and real people. Those places may have a little more natural beauty, but they are rather dull towns.

I, for one, will miss the “grad neighborhood” and our blighted little burg when I finish.

Finally, Ms. Bolin asks, “Ever met anyone in the grad ghetto who is proud of their apartments?” Well, I like my apartment on State Street — it is a little dingy, my lack of cleaning is running the place into the ground and my ceiling seems to be falling in. But it’s home.



Steven Nafziger is a sixth-year graduate student in economics.

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