Dilapidated HGS awaits renovation

Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

As the Hall of Graduate Studies approaches its 80th birthday, the deterioration of the building has begun to take a toll on some of its inhabitants.

Staff and faculty interviewed who work in HGS — which is home to classrooms, administrative offices, graduate student housing, and five academic departments and programs — said they have observed many general maintenance problems, including water damage, paint chipping and poor ventilation. The building has not undergone a major renovation since it was built in 1932, and although University President Richard Levin said administrators intend to improve the space, the economic downturn stalled their plans.

Thomas Pollard, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said he is a “strong advocate” for restoring the building and is “optimistic that much-needed repairs for HGS are moving toward the top of Yale’s priorities.”

“The building is elegant but in desperate need of renovation since its exterior and infrastructure … are all failing after many years of use,” he said in an email.

Lisa Brandes, assistant dean for student affairs at the Graduate School, added that improvements would help the Graduate School stay “competitive” with peer institutions in attracting potential students.

Gareth Nellis GRD ’15, who lives in HGS, said while elements of the building are “extremely attractive,” windows in the rooms are worn down and the heating system is inconsistent.

Because of water damage or mold in the building, several faculty members have had to move from their offices in recent years, said Marcy Kaufman, graduate registrar in the History Department. History professor Jennifer Klein said she had to switch offices a few years ago because of water damage on the ceiling, adding that there have been persistent maintenance issues with the building since she began working there in 2003.

Inhabitants interviewed also complained about the windows — which do not seal completely and allow dust to accumulate indoors — and the ventilation. Kaufman said that the heating system fails to keep the temperature constant throughout the building.

“It can be really hot in one room, and across the hall it could be freezing,” she said.

Matthew Jacobson, a professor of American studies, described the conditions in some of the bathrooms as “embarrassing,” especially when guests use the space for events.

Besides the need for structural maintenance, many cited concern with the general level of cleanliness and expressed a desire for more frequent custodial services. Victorine Shepard, an administrative coordinator with the American Studies Program, said the custodial workers work effectively during their shifts, but their schedules prevent them from cleaning as often as needed.

“The system doesn’t take into consideration the usage of the space, and how often it’s used,” Kaufman said.

Paul Catalano, the building’s superintendent for Yale Facilities, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

HGS houses the departments of history, East Asian languages and literature, Slavic languages and literatures, and Near Eastern languages and civilizations, as well as the American Studies Program.

Tapley Stephenson and Antonia Woodford contributed reporting.


  • ldffly

    So what else is new? In the 70s, heat in that building wasn’t inconsistent, it was all but nonexistent. Even though the administration didn’t want to let on, due to the severe budget constraints the whole campus had problems. Still, HGS was the worst. I lived in HGS for two years starting in fall of 1976. I remember the weekend after the November election when I was awake for most of three days. The heat never came on in my room!

    Water issues? Why sure! Among others, that nice ceiling in the common room on the 1st floor leaked like a sieve. I kept hoping that the ceiling wouldn’t get so bad that pieces of it would rot and fall down. I guess that never did happen. At least I never saw it happen while I was in there.

    In spite of the bad physical conditions all over the campus in those days, it was a lively and exhiliratingly demanding place with great minds. You could walk into HGS, turn right and pass the offices of Jaroslav Pelikan, Peter Gay, Stefan Korner and more. So, sure the university should have started taking care of the building once finances started to turn in the 90s, but it’s the work inside the university’s buildings that really counts.