Colleges decision delayed

The final decision on building two new residential colleges will come two months later than originally scheduled, University administrators said this week.

The Corporation was originally scheduled to vote on the proposal in December, after hearing reports from the two committees currently studying the effects of what would be Yale’s first major expansion in half a century. Over the summer, administrators decided to extend the committees’ deliberations and postpone the Corporation’s decision to February, University President Richard Levin said. The two committees are considering the proposed expansion from the perspectives of student life and academics, respectively.

“It’s important that the issues are thoroughly vetted, so [the committees] will take the time they need,” Levin said in an e-mail.

Committee chairs and other members of the administration involved in the deliberations said the original timeline was too ambitious to allow for time to fully consider the subtleties and complexities of changing Yale’s size.

Even though each of the committees held regular meetings throughout the spring semester and met together several times, many of the conversations generated more questions than they answered, said William Sledge, former master of Calhoun College and chair of the student life committee. Sledge said that despite his 10-year tenure as a college master, the committee’s discussions have led him to reconsider several of his beliefs about the Yale College experience.

Expansion might present an opportunity to fix several problems straining Yale’s residential college system, including the necessity of annex housing for juniors in some colleges and the shortage of performance and meeting spaces for undergraduates, Sledge said. His committee has also discussed the possibility of constructing a new quadrangle exclusively for freshmen from the new colleges, which would be separate from Old Campus and contiguous with each of the proposed colleges, he said.

“We have some things we need to fix in the current colleges, and we can’t do that unless we expand,” Sledge said.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon, who chairs the academic committee, said his committee has discussed in detail the implications that increasing the number of students could have for each academic department. Expansion has very different effects on different disciplines, he said.

“Everything seems more complicated than it may initially have seemed,” Gordon said. “It’s not a matter of just scaling up. The more you dig into things, the more you find that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Gordon said his committee will hold open forums this semester to try to reach out to the Yale community.

Neither of the committees, which reconvene on Friday, have discussed a timeline for the expansion if the proposal is ultimately adopted by the Corporation.

Levin formed the committees in February to produce a report to advise the Corporation. Yale has not added a residential college since Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges were built in the early 1960s.

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