As planning for Yale’s thirteenth and fourteenth residential colleges moves from conception to construction, students will at least have a voice — if not a veto — on how the final product turns out.
The Yale College Council on Friday announced the formation of the “New College Advisory Committee,” which will give students a venue to review design and programming aspects of the two new residential colleges. Although members of the committee will ultimately wield no decision-making power on the college’s design, they will make recommendations as the planning process advances this year and next, said the committee’s chair, Judith Krauss, the master of Silliman College and chair of the Council of Masters.
The 16-member committee will accept eight undergraduates on the basis of an application and will advise Bruce Alexander, the vice president of New Haven and state affairs and campus development.
“It will be providing advice on program issues and design issues as we go forward,” Krauss said of the committee. “But what it won’t be doing is making actual decisions.”
The committee’s first duty will be to convene a series of town hall meetings before the end of the semester to solicit student input on the role and ideal vision of a residential college.
“What we want to do is involve as many students as possible in town meetings,” Krauss said, “and ask questions like what has been part of your residential college experience that we absolutely have to design into these colleges, or what is it we should avoid, if possible.”
The committee itself will make recommendations on design issues —such as which amenities college basements should house — that arise over the course of the next two years. Those recommendations will then be passed along to Alexander or the New York-based architectural firm charged with designing the colleges, Robert A.M. Stern Architects. University President Richard Levin underscored that the body would not make final decisions in the design process.
“We thought it would be useful to get broader input about the design decisions and programming decisions, so this will be an advisory committee,” Levin said in a telephone interview Sunday, “You cannot make architectural decisions by committee.”
Alexander deferred comment for this article to Krauss, and the firm’s founder, School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern ARC ’65, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
At a Saybrook College master’s tea two weeks ago, Stern said student input would be heard. But he could not guarantee it would be acted upon.
“We welcome all your suggestions, but the reality is architecture takes a long time and often people who are part of the programming process are not going to reap the rewards,” he said then.
Yale College Council President Rich Tao ’10 e-mailed the Yale community Friday afternoon announcing the undergraduate positions on the committee and inviting all interested to apply. The YCC Executive Board selected the eight from a pool of roughly 30 applicants Sunday night. Tao added that he is happy students will be involved in discussions of the new colleges, although he expressed reservations about the committee.
“I hope that this body is not just a sounding board, I hope it is not a formality,” said Tao, who ran for YCC president on a platform that stressed student involvement in such discussions. “I hope its not just a way to get students on something and that it is substantive.”
Last year, before the colleges were formally approved, two committees examined their potential effects on Yale’s academic resources and student life. Students sat on both committees, and Levin said their voices were helpful.
“We had a lot of student input in the initial decision in terms of what to do to make sure the expansion doesn’t dilute the Yale College experience,” he said.
The new colleges are set to open in 2013. They are estimated to cost as much as $600 million and will increase the student body by approximately 15 percent to around 6,000 students.
The eight faculty members on the committee include Pierson College Master Harvey Goldblatt, Associate Dean of Yale College Penelope Laurans, Timothy Dwight College Dean John Loge, Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske, Ezra Stiles College Master Stephen Pitti ’91, Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Lloyd Suttle and Calhoun College Dean Leslie Woodard.