Every Thursday evening, the Davenport graduate student affiliates meet for dinner in the college dining hall to catch up, discuss classes and —sometimes — complain about their students. But this year, since graduate affiliates are now given two free meals per week in Yale dining halls instead of three, fewer graduates choose to eat together. Instead, they save the meal to meet with undergraduates, said James O’Leary GRD ’11,one of the Davenportaffiliates.
For colleges with many graduate affiliates — like Davenport, which has 43 — the shift from three to two meals per week could yield considerable savings. Other colleges are taking more drastic measures; Saybrook has eliminated the program entirely. Three administrators and masters interviewed said the cost-cutting measureswere necessary in light of recent financial pressures, but all six affiliates askedsaid they were unhappy with the cuts, which arrive just six months after Yale’s once-per-decade reaccreditation report stressed the need to better integrate graduate students into the Yale community.
WEIGHING THE CUTS
Saybrook Master Paul Hudak said the college eliminated all 10of its graduate affiliates who were not closely involvedwith the college.
“This was done not just for budgetary reasons, but simply because we did not have enough things for them to do,” he said.
Affiliates contribute to undergraduate student life in various ways, from offering adviceto teaching seminars to organizing social or cultural events. In addition to free meals, graduate affiliates are given access to a residential college and may use college facilities.
Christopher Grobe ’05 GRD ’12, coordinator of the graduate affiliate program, said the program is important because it brings graduate students into the college community.
“Recently, the accreditation report suggested that Yale needs to find more ways to integrate graduate and undergraduate communities at Yale,” he said, referring to a recommendation made by the Committee on Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in its letter granting accreditation to Yale last spring. “The graduate affiliate program is the perfect vehicle for this.”
Each residential college has the choice whether or not to implement the graduate affiliate program. This year, there are 171 graduate affiliates in total across nine colleges; Silliman, Timothy Dwight and now Saybrook have decided not to implement the program.
The cost of the program — which consists mainly of the cost of the students’ free meals — is shared equally among the Council of Masters, the residential colleges, the Dean’s Office of the Graduate School and the President’s Office. But because the program is not well-defined, it may be more vulnerable to cuts. Hudak, who is beginning his second year as master of Saybrook, said he viewed the program as an “experiment” during his first year.
“As I gain more experience in the college, and I can see ways for them to productively contribute, we may bring some back next year,” Hudak said. “But certainly not 10.”
Berkeley College Master Marvin Chun said he strongly supports the graduate affiliate program and believes that graduate and professional school students have much to offer the residential college community.
Chun said he recently invited James Franco GRD ’16 to become a Berkeley graduate affiliate because he was impressed with how well Franco interactedwith undergraduates.
Still, Chun said he feels the program must be cost-efficient.
Chesa Boudin ’03 LAW ’11,a Trumbull graduate affiliate, said he misses his extra meal swipe because he uses themto meet with undergraduates, including students in “Travel Writing,” the college seminar he teaches.
“I use my meals to work closely with undergraduates on class work, summer job plans, fellowship plans,” Boudin said. “The demand for meetings has always been much higher than the meals offered. I think it’s a shame to cut back on a program that is a great opportunity for both sides to build a mentor-mentee relationship.”
O’Leary completed his master’s degree at Oxford, where he said graduate, undergraduate and faculty communities were more integrated than at Yale. He said he applied to be a graduate affiliate to help him integrate into the Yale College community.
“I found graduate school to be isolating, as students have their departments, their labsand that’s about it,” he said. “It was only when I joined the graduate affiliate program that I felt as if I had regained a sense of how exciting university culture can be.”
Since joining the program, O’Leary has been an active member of Davenport College, attending intramural football practice. During the holidays, he said, he helped undergraduates build a giant gingerbread replica of Davenport and performed in the college’s Christmas pageant.
Aside from the graduate affiliate program, colleges may also have resident fellows — faculty members who live in the college itself and provide supplemental guidance to students. At the discretion of individual colleges, some graduate affiliates may be invited to live in the colleges as well.
While Saybrook eliminated its graduate affiliates, Hudak said the college chose to keep its two resident fellowsthis year.
Harvard University also has a graduate affiliate program that sorts graduate students into houses. The graduate students live alongside undergraduates.
Deborah Doroshow GRD ’13said that her favorite experiences as an undergraduate at Harvard included befriending and learning from graduate students who lived in her house. Although she praised Yale’s undergraduate experience, she said she felt the University could better integrate graduates into undergraduate student life.
The graduate affiliate program accepts applications twice per year, once in the spring for continuing studentsand once in the fall for first-year graduate students.