Yale Corporation talks aid, digitization, sustainability

When an excursion to West Haven is the highlight of a weekend, it must not be a very exciting weekend.

Such was the case last weekend, when the members of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, descended on New Haven for their last meeting before they vote in February on whether to build two new residential colleges. And, like the calm before the storm, the meeting was more routine than anything else, as members listened to presentations from various Yale officials on topics ranging from sustainability to digitalization of the University’s library collections.

The corporation also talked “at some considerable length” about undergraduate financial aid, Levin said, and gave positive feedback regarding his plan to announce a “major” financial-aid initiative next month.

In a departure from the usual schedule of meetings around campus, members of the corporation ventured to West Haven for a tour of Yale’s new West Campus, University President Richard Levin said in an interview Monday. For most of the corporation members, it was their first glimpse of the sprawling science research complex the University purchased from Bayer HealthCare over the summer.

After the tour of the 137-acre site, Levin said, corporation members agreed the facilities offer promise for the expansion and improvement of Yale’s future scientific endeavors.

“I think there’s quite a lot of excitement,” Levin said. “It’s a pretty impressive facility.”

Levin said the University has already begun discussions about how best to use the 1.5-million-square-foot complex, which includes about 550,000 square feet of laboratory space as well as office buildings and warehouses. Yale is prepared to make a significant upfront investment within the next several years to hire new scientists and set them up with research space at the complex, Levin said.

The University announced the purchase of the Bayer site to much fanfare in June and closed on the deal in August for $109 million, a fraction of what it would have cost to build comparable facilities on the existing campus. University officials expect to take at least five years to fully occupy the site.

Outside of the trip to West Haven, the weekend featured mostly presentations and discussions for the corporation, which did not make any significant approvals of new policies or projects at the meeting.

Among the presentations were reports from the architects of several campus building projects, including the Morse and Ezra Stiles college renovations and the new Yale Biology Building; a report on the new tenure standards for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved last year; a report on the Yale University Library’s continuing efforts to digitize its collections; and a report from Julie Newman, Yale’s director of sustainability, about the University’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly.

But there was little talk about the proposed addition of two new residential colleges. The corporation is expected to devote much of its next meeting — scheduled for Feb. 21 — to that topic.

At that meeting, the corporation will receive reports from the two student-faculty committees studying the potential ramifications of two new residential colleges on student life and Yale’s academic resources.

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