The hammers, blue tarp and plastic orange fencing on the Yale campus — typically known for its neo-Gothic architecture and picturesque courtyards — have put additional pressure on student tour guides this semester to highlight the University’s selling points, both aesthetic and academic.
With evidence of a $400 million construction effort visible on every block, student-led tours of Yale have been forced to adapt to decreased or eliminated access to certain campus areas, including Cross Campus, Sterling Memorial Library and Silliman College. Yalies who give fall tours — intended to educate visitors and prospective students about the University’s history and current offerings — said that despite the new pressures, they have found ways to give visitors a good impression.
Tour guide Joanna Zdanys ’07 said some prospective students’ parents have expressed concern about the side effects from the ongoing construction.
“I’m used to them asking, ‘Is it always this noisy on campus?’ or, ‘Is there always this much construction going on?’” Zdanys said in an e-mail. “We usually try to emphasize that by the time their kids are at Yale the bulk of these projects will be over.”
Rachel Butler ’08, another guide, said she is disappointed that she is not able to show visitors Cross Campus because of the underground renovation of Cross Campus Library, slated for completion next fall.
“When we could go on Cross Campus, it was much easier to get positive feedback on what an open and inviting campus Yale has,” Butler said. “Cross Campus was always a place where people gathered.”
Butler said she now focuses more on Old Campus to give visitors a similar impression.
Construction on campus should not be seen as a weakness, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said.
“Our sense is that virtually everyone who visits sees the construction as evidence of Yale’s strength, its expansion, and its commitment to follow through on the renovation of the campus,” Brenzel said in an e-mail.
In the past, tour groups had access to SML, but because of the construction, those wishing to learn about the library’s facilities must take a self-guided individual tour.
Avani Dholakia ’09, another Yale tour guide, said she has not seen anyone on her tours go on to take the self-guided tour of Sterling.
“I haven’t seen them actually do it, because every tour goes through Beinecke [Rare Book and Manuscript Library],” she said.
Dholakia said she thinks being unable to display Sterling is a significant downside of the construction.
“Showing Sterling was a huge selling point,” Dholakia said. “That’s been the only real negative part. But I also tell them that next year it’ll be beautiful.”
Despite the increase in questions from parents, visiting high school students have not complained much about the construction, tour guides said.
Elizabeth Ehret, a prospective student from New Jersey visiting Yale on Tuesday, said she is not bothered by the construction efforts.
“It’s a little distracting, but I think you can get over it for Yale,” she said.
Tour guide Stephanie Wright ’08 said responsibility ultimately lies with the guide to make the best of the situation.
“In reality … it’s not so much the [tour] route that’s changed as the weight on the guide to be creative, enthusiastic and convincing,” Wright said in an e-mail. “We must make visitors forget all the hardhats and jackhammers and remember that Yale is an incredible place to be.”
Zdanys said construction is just another aspect of Yale life to which students must adjust.
“To be honest, there’s been a ton of construction on campus the whole time I’ve been at Yale,” Zdanys said. “During my sophomore year when Beinecke Plaza was under construction, I felt as though people were missing out on a gorgeous sight. I’m sad that campus looks like this during my last year at Yale, but I don’t think it’s going to hold too many people back from applying.”