Graduate residence facility needs are marginalized in University’s growth plan

To the Editor:

I appreciated June Torbati’s recent article (“Grad school housing squeeze likely to last” 11/14) on the graduate housing situation at Yale. The students interviewed for the piece provided a good sense of the frustrations graduate students wishing to live on campus must face: a lack of space, crumbling facilities and, most importantly, a sense that the Yale administration’s priorities lie elsewhere.

While all graduate students should appreciate the level of financial support provided by the University, such support does not in and of itself excuse the University’s inattention to the needs of students who live on campus (or would like to if there were enough space).

The Yale experience is, or at least should be, about more than academics, yet too often the administration treats graduate students as though they were merely machines for teaching and conducting research. Many of us chose to come to Yale in part in order to partake of Yale’s unmatched social and intellectual life. On the whole, Yale graduate students have little reason to regret their choice to come here.

And yet … the University spends millions of dollars renovating undergraduate colleges, while graduate housing is both inadequate and decrepit, to the point that it took a series of disasters (including the infamous flood of 2005) before the University would even reluctantly consider renovating the Hall of Graduate Studies. Meanwhile, an entire wing of HGS was recently converted from student rooms to offices, and rumors continue to abound that the whole building will soon be used for office spaces. No one has ever raised the possibility of turning, say, Silliman College into offices — a point which is not lost on the residents of HGS.

Of course, graduate students cannot as a rule even access the newly renovated colleges, while undergraduates have the run of the campus (including HGS). Many graduate students find this situation insulting; as one graduate student friend put it, “Do they think we’re all sex offenders, or what?”

Yes, graduate students at Yale are very well-compensated and enjoy world-class research facilities. What many of them do not appreciate is the perception that the University cares about nothing but their research and teaching. Frankly, a lot of graduate students would like to have the whole “Yale experience” that the administration appears to want to reserve for the undergraduates, including the residential college atmosphere of living in HGS (without the leaky pipes and dangerous elevator

The University administration ought to take seriously graduate students’ perception of being second-class citizens, rather than dismissing such complaints simply because graduate students are well paid. Addressing the housing crisis, with input from the graduate students affected by it, would be a good place to start.

Jeff Mankoff

Nov. 14

Mankoff graduated with a PhD from Yale in 2006. He lived in HGS for four years.

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