Overcrowded housing here to stay

The unexpectedly large number of students who applied for on-campus housing last year, combined with the shortage of housing for juniors, startled administrators. This year, it is clear that overcrowding is becoming a trend, worrying residential college deans and students alike.

The most likely explanation for overcrowding is a decrease in the number of students living off campus and a subsequent increase in students living in the colleges, said John Meeske, associate dean for physical resources and planning, who is in charge of overseeing undergraduate student housing. Most colleges have already been assigned annex buildings, either in on-campus buildings or University-owned apartments nearby, he said.

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Though only a few colleges have completed their upperclassman housing draws, some residential college deans are already predicting the need for more space. The extent of that need varies among the colleges: Jonathan Edwards College might overflow even its annex housing, while in Trumbull College, the number of students choosing to live on campus remained steady.

For now, administrators have not arrived at a long-term solution, but Meeske said he will deal with issues of overcrowding in individual colleges after housing arrangements have been finalized.

Meeske said after the college renovations over the past several years, on-campus living could have become more appealing. Pierson College Dean Amerigo Fabbri said the current economic climate might be encouraging seniors to live on campus.

Meeske said he has been concerned about overcrowding in the colleges for a while, and though it has never happened before, it is always possible that overall some students might not have housing.

“We don’t have enough room to house all students on campus,” he said. “If the number of students living off-campus goes down, it’s conceivable that we might not have enough room. That’s never happened before but it’s conceivable one way or another.”

Though Jonathan Edwards has not yet held its housing draw, its housing committee predicts that, even with annex housing in McClellan Hall, there will not be enough space for everyone who wants to live on campus, JE housing committee member David Edwards ’12 said.

“It looks like about 10 to 20 more seniors are staying on campus this year,” Edwards said. “We will most likely overflow and have to get off-campus housing.”

Meeske anticipates that even Swing Space, which usually has extra space for annexed students, will be full. He said Ezra Stiles students, who will be staying in Swing Space next year while their college is renovated, have decided to live on campus in greater numbers than expected.

“There is a possibility that they might need annex space as well as Swing Space,” he said.

Trumbull, which was the first college to draw for housing, is annexing 20 rising juniors in Arnold Hall, Trumbull Dean Jasmina Besirevic-Regan said in an e-mail to Trumbull housing committee member Jake Eliasberg ’13. Sixty-seven of 122 rising juniors and 64 of 102 rising seniors plan to live on-campus, she said. (Besirevic-Regan did not return a request for comment.)

Eliasberg said the number of seniors living on campus this year was a little lower than last year, but still within the expected range.

Pierson College, whose rising seniors drew for housing Sunday afternoon, is annexing for the second time in many years, Fabbri said. This year, 10 people — two rising seniors and eight rising juniors — are being annexed in Harrison Court on Park Street, only one fewer than the number of people annexed last year, he said.

Usually, because only freshmen and sophomores are guaranteed housing by the University, and because residential colleges let seniors pick more desirable housing first, juniors are the ones relegated to annex housing. But Fabbri said both juniors and seniors have the option of living in Harrison Court, because it is considered desirable housing.

“It’s such a nice combination because it’s an apartment building, so some seniors are really intrigued by the idea,” he said.

About 62 additional Piersonites are planning to live off campus, which is slightly higher than last year’s number, Pierson housing committee member Michael Chao ’11 said.

Students interviewed said they have mixed feelings about being annexed, depending on the situation in their colleges.

Christina Lin ’11, a Pierson junior who will be annexed to Harrison Court next year, said she does not mind because the amenities in the apartment building are better than those in Pierson.

“I guess I’m OK with it,” she said. “I got last draw so I was expecting it. And I get a kitchen.”

She added that students in colleges whose annexed students live on campus might not be as happy with the situation.

Beanie Meadow ’11, a Saybrook student who will live in annex housing next year, said her college does not have a single building it uses for annexed students. Instead, annexed students live in whatever housing is left over after the other colleges have determined their housing, meaning that they will most likely be living separately from most of their class.

“It sucks most for Saybrook and other colleges where annexed people aren’t together,” Meadow said.

Correction: March 31, 2010

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misattributed the statement that overcrowding in the colleges has long been a concern and that there is always the possibility that some students might not get on-campus housing. It was John Meeske, associate dean for physical resources and planning, who made the statement, not Pierson College Dean Amerigo Fabbri.


  • Y’10

    Clearly its best to be in Silliman =)

  • Yale could….

    Why doesn’t Yale just admit fewer students? Money?

  • SY 06

    Five or six years ago I wrote a letter to the editor that criticized Yale’s weak study abroad culture. There was plenty of money for trips over winter break or the summer but few approved programs for study during the school year. And, unlike many of its counterparts, Yale did not have a culture of study abroad. While I know there have been efforts to change this over the last few years, the changes have clearly been slow to come. The point is, at many schools, significant portions of the junior class leave to study abroad. So, aside from the many other benefits that come from study abroad, if Yale could even get 1/4 to 1/3 of the class to take one semester abroad it would help to alleviate the problem of overcrowding.

  • 2012

    Yale loves money. It wants people to stay on campus and charge them a lot for it.

  • @SY 06

    Yalies don’t want to study abroad because they already go to one of the best academic institutions in the world. Why would I ever want to leave this place? I still remember the day I got in, and I want to be here as long as possible.

    Many Yalies satiate their desire to see the world by spending 10 weeks in a different country during their first couple summers of college.

    Yale facilitates the path that we choose to take by offering summer fellowships and a multitude of summer programs. They are reacting to our decision, not creating it.

    Love it or hate it, it makes a hell of a lot of sense.

  • Robert Schneider

    It’s outrageous that Yale College might not have room for everyone who wants to live on campus. It’s also outrageous that college students are sent annexes or worse. Oh, I forgot. The new colleges will eventually eliminate overcrowding! No, they won’t. They will continue to admit too many students for facilities. They’ve done this since the 70s when I was there.

  • Yale 08

    That the Yale College experience is being stretched to its limits due to housing crunches (and certainly other strains) should be evidence enough that the new residential colleges should be used to alleviate overcrowding rather than to bolster the number of undergraduates to an even less sustainable number.

  • ’13

    SY06, we don’t want to study abroad because we don’t want to leave campus! Why leave the best university in the world behind to study in a foreign country when you can do it after graduating and over the summers? I certainly have no desire to. Not to say I don’t want to go abroad, I–and most Yale students–do, we just want to be here for as much time as possible, too.

  • SM10

    silliman may annex this year. stay tuned.

  • Recent Alum

    Did anyone consider whether “gender neutral” housing is responsible for this overcrowding? This could be the case if folks who would otherwise have lived off campus now wants to live in a “gender neutral” room on campus. If this is the case, then clearly there are adverse consequences to this new housing policy.

  • SM ’12

    Actually, there are even going to be people who have to be annexed from Silliman this year. I think that’s a major sign that the housing situation is out of control.

  • SY ’10

    Yes, Recent Alum, by making on-campus housing more attractive to more people, Yale may have increased overcrowding. Of course, the same argument could be made against college renovations, improving the quality of food in the dining halls, or while we’re at it, even having electricity and running water (bet there wouldn’t be a housing crunch if we had to use kerosene lamps in dorm rooms and had nowhere to plug our computers in).

    You may not like gender neutral housing, but an argument that it is bad because it makes more people want to live on campus is really ridiculous.

  • Stiles

    Stiles almost never annexes either, but next year we’re going to have to. The past 2 years it’s been literally 4 people getting annexed, and they chose to do so instead of even entering the regular draw…this will be the first year where we have a legit annex situation.

    but @ #5 and #8, I agree with you 100%

  • R.J.N.

    This is why they should build alternative housing for upperclassmen like university apartments, cultural houses, special interest housing (like apartments on science hill for science majors???), etc.

    the college system is wonderful but some of us outgrow it… there should be other options anyhow, but clearly we need them as well.

  • Paul Keane

    Perhaps we should wary of moving into other peoples’ rooms. My good friend, Ben Biddick, wrote the following allegory about housing:

    “All she did was sit in that chair. She was my grandma. Grandma Packard. She was the old hag of her town. Everyone hated her and everyone was hated by her. She never left her house and I guess she never left that drat chair. I was fifteen when it happened and I hadn’t seen her out of that old rocking chair my entire life. The chair was old and rickedy and creaked when it rocked. I’d think that the creaking of that chair would drive her insane! She hated me dearly. She never showed any love or affection to me, but to all the other children she did. That was the reason I hated her so much. She never had time for me. All she could do was drool and sit in the rocking chair. Yes, I hated her. Right to my soul. I had such an incapacity for her. I hated her at a higher level every time I saw her. It just kept rising. She was at least ninety something. I really didn’t care to know anything about her. She shared her love with no one but her grandchildren- with me the exception.
    I was glad when she died. She never left that chair- she even died in it. It was pitiful. Her weak heart had finally given up.
    We inherited the house, and we had to make major repairs and we had to have major cleaning sprees, but I could finally be free of her evil sneer that shook me with uncontrollable fear. How I hated her.
    I had to have that room. Not by choice believe me. The room she had rocked her heart to death in. I quivered at the thought of living in it, but I had to since my little sister and brother were afraid of it.
    It was the first night to sleep in it: the room. I had my covers totally concealing my body- a habit I had developed in my days as a toddler. The moon was unusually bright and the light showed through the thin blanket because I had placed my bed by the window. I soon fell asleep.
    I opened my eyes. I thought I heard footsteps in my room. Was it mother? I saw the shape of a woman pass through the moonlight interrupting the flow onto my blanket. Sweat broke out from my back and fear swelled inside my stomach. I wanted to scream for help, but I was too terrified.
    “Eddie Packard, why did you hate me?” asked a woman’s voice in a taunting tone.
    I was too horrified to answer. I heard a thud that sounded like the woman was placing something on the floor. I gritted my teeth with total, terrible anxiety.
    “I know you’re under there, Eddie,” the voice crackled.
    I could not move. My heart beat so loud the woman must have heard it.
    From right next to the bed, I heard the familiar creaking of Granny Packard’s rocking chair. She was going to drive me insane.”