When and if Yale’s two new residential colleges are finally built, intramural captains in Berkeley, Calhoun and Trumbull colleges will likely have an even harder time getting full teams out to the sports fields than they do now.
As planning for the expansion project continues, University officials say those three colleges are almost certain to have smaller populations in a world of 14 colleges than in a world of 12. It’s not that University President Richard Levin wants the Calhoun ping-pong team to suffer, though; it’s that Yale is trying to find a way to reduce — albeit not eliminate — annexing, while still filling as many campus beds as it can in the annual guessing game that is Yale’s housing process.
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“My goal is to be able to shrink the numbers in those colleges so as to cut down on annexing,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in a recent interview.
Berkeley, Calhoun and Trumbull are the colleges most affected by annexing, Miller said. According to data presented in last year’s report from the committees that studied the proposed expansion, Berkeley has in recent years been able to accommodate only around 49 percent of its juniors, Calhoun 61 percent and Trumbull 44 percent.
In contrast, colleges like Pierson and Ezra Stiles have regularly housed at least three-quarters of their juniors. (The same is true of Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges, but they house students for four years, not three like the rest of Yale’s colleges.)
The two new colleges will also be four-year colleges, each with 425 beds. The total population of each college will be a little higher than 425, though, since there are always some students who choose to live off campus but remain affiliated with their residential college. But even with around 900 students affiliated with the colleges slated just north of the Grove Street Cemetery, the Admissions Office will not be aiming to add 900 more undergraduates.
Instead, some portion of those spots will be used to reduce the overcrowding in Berkeley, Calhoun and Trumbull, as well as some of the other colleges that annex a few students to Old Campus annually, by giving those colleges fewer freshmen each year. This will help the University fulfill one of the central goals of the proposed expansion of Yale College — namely, to eliminate the need for juniors to live in annex spaces on the Old Campus.
But not all annexing will go away. Penelope Laurans, the acting master of Jonathan Edwards College who oversaw study of the proposed expansion, explained there are several varieties of annex housing.
“In one kind of annexing, students are placed at such distances from their colleges that remaining deeply connected to residential college life becomes inconvenient and difficult,” Laurans said. “There is another kind of annexing where students are living in good annexes adjacent to the college, or right across the street from the college, so that they are still able to have a close and intimate connection with college facilities and people.”
The latter category of annex housing — including Arnold Hall for Davenport, Pierson’s upper court and part of McClellan Hall for nearby JE — will not be eliminated through the addition of the two new colleges.
Annexing of the first kind, though, is what Yale officials are hoping to end. Berkeley or Calhoun or Trumbull students are unlikely to find themselves living in Vanderbilt Hall once the two new colleges are opened.
Even as they commit to reducing this kind of annexing, University officials are stopping short of ruling it out altogether. John Meeske, the dean of Administrative Affairs in Yale College, explained that annexing acts as a kind of “safety valve” for colleges, because it is impossible to predict how many students will choose to live on campus in a given year.
(This year is a good example of the uncertainty surrounding the housing process, Meeske noted. Just last week, Berkeley College was expecting to annex 55 students for 2009-’10. But now, because so many students have made last-minute decisions to head off campus, the number is just seven.)
Administrators acknowledge that, until the new colleges open, there are few solutions to the problem of annexing. Indeed, the situation could get worse because, as of 2011, each of the residential colleges will have been renovated, attracting more students to campus housing.
The number of students living in off campus housing has fallen significantly since it peaked at 18 percent in 1996. Since then, as residential colleges have been renovated, the number has dropped to around 11 or 12 percent each year.