Every time I get into a debate with other Yalies about our residential colleges, everyone seems to conclude, “TD sucks.”
Some argue that Timothy Dwight is too far away, claiming that they measure distance in “TD miles”; or they mention how terrible it is that TD freshman do not live on Old Campus. Even though I love my home at 345 Temple St., knowing that it is Yale’s best college, I am starting to concede ever so slightly that Timothy Dwight’s critics might be correct.
Even though I love how TD is at least two blocks away from everything and how our freshman live within the walls of our college, I understand that in comparison to the other 11 colleges, we are greatly unequal in some respects.
Last week, after visiting basements of Berkeley, Calhoun, Jonathan Edwards and Trumbull, I realized Timothy Dwight’s one large deficit.
When comparing the communal spaces of each of these residential colleges to that of my own, I understood exactly how rough we TDers have it: the long, dark corridors beneath our college pale in comparison to the bright modern basements of many other colleges.
Our uninviting buttery is no larger than an airplane’s galley kitchen, with a small serving counter that has barely enough room for the employees to grill and bake, whereas Calhoun’s is welcoming with enough workspace for three or more students.
Our multipurpose room certainly cannot serve more than one purpose. It is occupied by cardio equipment that cannot find a home in the proper gym. Berkeley’s airy multipurpose room is used for everything from group yoga classes to dance rehearsals.
Our common room is little more than four or five couches outside the dining hall, whereas Trumbull’s is a cozy independent space perfect for hosting a meeting or studying for that upcoming midterm.
To me, Timothy Dwight College, in this regard, is certainly not equal to any other residential college.
But I thought the whole point of draining JE’s gargantuan endowment was to create the opportunity for a more equal experience between students of different residential colleges. How is my experience the same as that of a Berkeleyite or a Morsel if our facilities are so drastically different? How is my experience the same if TD’s student kitchen is furnished with hand-me-down culinary tools, but Calhoun’s has the latest stainless steel appliances?
It is not that Timothy Dwight Master Jeffery Brenzel and the Timothy Dwight College Council (known as Mott Woolley) are apathetic toward the problems at hand. In fact, specific action was taken last year to draw up plans for minor renovations to the basement. However, TD does not have the funds to make the much-needed upgrades after its C. Mott Woolley Fund (similar to an endowment) was appropriated to the University.
So we are at a dead end — there is no place left to go in order to renovate our dull, dark basement.
Even though we have equity in funding, what else about the college system is equal for us? Nothing really.
Being that each residential college is a separate entity onto itself, it is impossible for one student in Branford to have the same experiences as a student in Pierson. When Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi visited Yale, more TDers had dinner with her than students from any other college; when Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg came to Yale, more Davenporters attended than members of any other college. That is not equal.
I am not arguing for equality among the colleges. I am proposing that the administration accept that by having different colleges — each with its own needs and wants — there will be inequality. We need to embrace that.
What is wrong with allowing colleges to work hard to gain funds aimed at creating unique experiences for their students? Why can’t TD fund upgrades to its own basement while another college funds a trip for its members?
It is not that the inequality creates better or worse experiences, just different ones. A diversity of experiences among Yale students fosters true love for one’s residential college.
Benjamin Ackerman is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This piece is part of the News’ Friday Forum. Click here to read more.