Letter: A need for a new building

On Jan. 15, you published an opinion piece by Joel Rosenbaum (“For a more frugal Yale”). As members of the Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology Executive Committee, we would like to clarify some of his assertions regarding the need for the new Yale Biology Building. While it is true that $15 million was spent to repair the Kline Biology Tower, nearly 75 percent of that money was used to repair the exterior of the building and provided no benefit for the interior. The Kline Biology Tower is failing the department owing to decaying infrastructure that leads to frequent flooding and other problems. In addition, only a small fraction of the laboratories have been refurbished. While adequate animal facilities are among our most pressing needs, construction of the Yale Biology Building is the most efficient and cost effective means to this end — not the construction of a temporary facility, which the University has already rejected as impractical.

The department’s Jan. 11 self study for an upcoming external review summarizes the case for the new building: “The Yale Biology Building is essential for the health of MCDB. It will solve our chronic problems with failing infrastructure in KBT, relocate all of our labs from 13 separate floors in Osborne Memorial in Osborn Memorial Laboratories and KBT onto three floors of much more interactive research space, provide flexibility lacking in our buildings to vary the space occupied by each lab as needs inevitably change over time and replace the inadequate animal facility in OML with a large state-of-the-art facility serving all of Science Hill. The limitations of KBT and OML have created obstacles to the hiring of junior and senior faculty over the last decade and neither building provides an environment for modern research, compared to facilities provided by our peer institutions. The faculty considers the reactivation and completion of the YBB project as its greatest need and highest priority as a department.”

Thomas D. Pollard

Ronald Breaker

Xing-Wang Deng

Haig Keshishian

Shirleen Roeder

The writers are professors in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and members of the MCDB Executive Committee.


  • anyname

    What about the space at the West Campus? It’s already built.

  • A grad student in the dept

    Three words: location, location, location.

    Professors in an academic department, especially one that is active such as ours, have to teach. The graduate students in the department, myself included, also have to serve as teaching fellows. As someone who commutes every day to campus from 2.5 miles away, I could get to campus in 5 minutes or 50 depending on the traffic. Double the distance (about 5 miles to central campus from West Campus), who knows what the time will be? West Campus will be useful for several department creations that do not so heavily rely on teaching. It is also important for storage, as Yale does not have to rent storage facilities from third-party sources. Already there are labs who use the space there and several art collections are stored there.

    As a graduate student in the department, I can definitely agree with the above statement from my exec committee regarding collaborations. It doesn’t happen much, if at all. We have to rely on copious departmental events in order to even see people. What is talked about, but lacking in details, is the decrepit state of some key components of the building. Last year, the elevator outages in KBT were notoriously bad, especially around the time for recruitment for the department. It set a very bad image for the department when we had to wait for one elevator to service 13 floors while hosting the recruits, all of whom needed to move from one interviewer to another at the exact same time. Imagine trying to move 30 some students in the middle of normal business hours when other researchers need to move experiments from one floor to another.

    As for other institutions, the department’s buildings stand in stark contrast with other research universities and even other areas of the Yale campus (TAC and the cancer center, for example).

    In short, we need a fix. Badly.