The Yale administration owes the student body an apology.
Thomas Kaplan’s article “Expansion: Not if, but when” (1/15) illuminates what many students have been feeling for months: Yale President Richard Levin and the university administration have never really cared what students thought about whether or not two new colleges should be built. When President Levin first sent out e-mails to the student body just over a year ago saying that the university would be examining the prospect of building two new residential colleges, it appeared that student input would be valued. There would be committees with students involved; there would be forums; there was a Yale Political Union debate!
However, what many of us initially suspected quickly became clear: the administration would do what it wanted — build new colleges — regardless of students’ concerns. Emblematic of this pre-formed decision was the placement of former Calhoun College Master William Sledge at the head of a committee examining the “possible” (read: coming soon!) effects of expansion on student life.
If the addition of two new colleges was not a foregone conclusion, or if they wanted to continue to at least provide us with the illusion of our voices mattering, administrators would have appointed a committee chair who was impartial and did not already support expansion.
Yet in early Dec., long before the committee’s work was done, Sledge told the News that the residential-college system needs to be fixed through “the momentum of a large project — something like building two new residential colleges” (“Veteran Sledge pushes for expansion of student body,” 12/5/2007).
I personally disagree with the idea of building two new colleges. The primary argument made by Sledge and President Richard Levin is that Yale is turning away too many highly qualified applicants. This might be a valid argument, except the students Yale is turning away are still going to excellent schools. Jian Li ’10, the student who sued Princeton after he was not admitted, was still able to come to Yale. I got rejected from Stanford, which many people consider to be less prestigious than our fine institution, and was still admitted here. At all top-tier colleges and universities, one can find students who were rejected from Yale.
Unless we want to perpetually expand the university, it will be impossible to ever admit all the qualified applicants. If Yale is really worried about having the highest-quality student body possible, the administration should focus on creating the most welcoming environment possible for those students who are accepted under the current system, rather than copping out and accepting more. In doing so, they will destroy the cohesiveness of the community by enlarging the student body and sticking hundreds of students in an isolated and undesirable location.
I lived in Jonathan Edwards last year, and it seemed like a huge burden to try to go see my friends in Timothy Dwight. Imagine having to trudge up Science Hill, walking around a cemetery in order to visit friends in one of the new colleges. And while new professors may be hired, I have yet to be convinced that class sizes will not grow.
Why am I even bothering, though? I’ve already stated that I believe the University does not care about the opinions of myself or any other students when it comes to deciding if, not when, new colleges should be built. I am writing because I believe the administration needs to know that ignoring student opinion is intolerable; bending the truth and masquerading in order to maintain an image of heeding student opinion is reprehensible.
While I do not support the idea of building two new colleges, if the administration had simply stated outright, “We feel that expansion is in the best interests of the university and we will be building new colleges,” I would have accepted the decision and would have hoped to offer useful advice on how to help a larger Yale maintain the sense of community that makes this place so special.
Instead, I am left disillusioned about the overall goals of the University and the decision-making process of Levin and other administrators. Perhaps with 600 more students they will begin to care what we think.
Kai Thaler is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College.