Bridge gown-gown divide in New Haven

Where is Southern Connecticut State University? It’s in New Haven, at 501 Crescent Street, to be precise. It’s less than two miles from Phelps Gate. Here’s another one: Where’s Albertus Magnus College?

It’s also in New Haven — on Prospect Street, one mile up from Ingalls Rink. Some of Yale’s more ambitious joggers probably go past it when they jog a few blocks past Betts House.

One of New Haven’s other educational institutions, Gateway Community College, has been a focus of one of the most heated development debates — other than the infamous and widely publicized one over the proposed Yale-New Haven Cancer Center — to touch New Haven. In a few years, Gateway may even be Yale’s new neighbor when it moves to a new downtown location just three blocks from the Alpha Epsilon Pi house on Crown Street.

The University of New Haven is, counter-intuitively, located in West Haven, on the border with New Haven. But it draws a substantial portion of its student body from New Haven. And, in stark contrast to Yale, UNH offers majors in specific professional areas, such as forensic science and accounting.

Believe it or not, New Haven is a college town, and not just because of Yale. Yale is not even the most populous university in the area; SCSU has almost 1,000 more students. Nonetheless, between the remarkable number of Yalies working in City Hall, Yale University Properties’ expansion and the powerful presence of Yale employee unions, it might be easy to forget that there are four other institutions of higher education in this city.

In light of this relative isolation, though, it is amazing how easily and quickly Yalies build bonds with peers at institutions hundreds of miles away. Many of us have acquaintances and close friends at Stanford, Harvard and Columbia, but how rarely do we develop bonds with students at institutions a few blocks away, at the University of New Haven, Albertus Magnus, Gateway Community College and Southern Connecticut State University?

Granted, the disconnect between Yalies and students from other New Haven colleges is partially about logistics. There are some basic logistical difficulties that prevent Yalies from getting to know students on other campuses. Most Yale students do not need to venture beyond the boundaries of campus in their daily business. We have everything that we need provided for us here — food, places to study and resources with which to study, warmth and shelter — and Yale does a great job of providing it.

It is a tired but true reality that the most frequent interaction that Yalies have with students from other local colleges occurs on the dance floor at Toad’s Place after Quinnipiac University (in Hamden) has bussed the visitors into the downtown area surrounding our university.

It is time for students from Yale and the other colleges in New Haven to begin working on more common projects. New Haven Action has already begun the work of building an organization that has active core participants from universities other than Yale, but we have a long way to go. Surely other campus organizations would find themselves stronger if they could coordinate with their peers around New Haven. For example, Gateway College has students who specialize in public relations or accounting — practical skills that Yale organizations often sorely lack. Students from New Haven’s colleges have different specialties and advantages that would make us all much stronger working together than apart.

There are a range of issues that affect students beyond Yale, from reducing crime to increasing clean energy use in New Haven, and Yale students should be working in partnership with students from other campuses to find and implement solutions.

Yale students should work in partnership with students from other campuses to find and implement solutions. Integrating all of New Haven’s colleges into common organizations and efforts will not be easy; it will probably be at least five years before we start to see strong bonds. Let’s get started now.



Whitney Haring-Smith is a junior in Morse College.

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