Dwight Hall has a chance to move out, on

This weekend, Dwight Hall announced that the community-service umbrella organization will move out in 2010 from its home on Old Campus, which it has occupied since 1932.

Change is, of course, the only constant, even at Yale, and there are many reasons why the organization’s move out of the Dwight Hall building — a former library that is now part chapel, part meeting space — will benefit both the students who work at Dwight Hall and the community they serve. But the News is disappointed that the organization’s move from Old Campus to 143 Elm St. will remove it from the heart of the Yale campus and thus risk diminishing the organization’s strong presence among Yale undergraduates, particularly among freshmen.

Dwight Hall’s current prime location — near classrooms in Linsly-Chittenden, freshman dorms and the statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, always a magnet for Yale’s tour guides and their flocks of applicants and parents — reinforces the extent to which community service is central to life at Yale. Most undergraduates at Yale volunteer through Dwight Hall at some point in their four years here, creating a university environment in which students understand how important it is to give back to the community at large. The centrality of Dwight Hall mimics the centrality of service at Yale, and we hope that changing the former does not disrupt the latter. Community service at Yale is a tradition, one that we are reminded of every time we enter or pass by the building on Old Campus.

But there are a number of positive aspects of the move to Elm Street that promise to help Dwight Hall accomplish its mission of “foster[ing] civic-minded student leaders,” and, for those reasons, the News understands the decision of the Dwight Hall board to approve the move. The current location, shared between community-service groups, social-justice groups, the Chaplain’s Office and the Institute of Sacred Music, clearly did not suit the organizational needs of Dwight Hall as well as the newer, bigger building will. And though the current location was visible and accessible to Yale students, its location in the heart of the campus was also somewhat inaccessible and perhaps foreboding for community members, whereas the new building will be right across the street from a public bus stop. The new building also answers the problems Dwight Hall had in starting renovations on the old space, which were complicated because of financial concerns and the need to collaborate with the Chaplain’s Office and the Institute of Sacred Music.

As students who spend their time as tutors or volunteers at soup kitchens no doubt know, some situations call for pragmatism and compromise, and this is one such situation. While we are frustrated that no solution could be found that would have enabled Dwight Hall to stay in its old location, the decision to move has already be made, and it’s time to look ahead and be optimistic about what Dwight Hall, with its newly renovated and bigger space, will be able to accomplish in its next 80 years.

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