University-wide student center considered

Students from Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the 12 professional schools are collaborating for the first time to draft a proposal for a University-wide student center.

On Wednesday, the newly formed Student Center Ad Hoc Committee — which is comprised of 20 undergraduates and graduate students — met in the Hall of Graduate Studies to craft a student center proposal they hope to submit to administrators this spring. The student center would expand upon existing meeting spaces , connect undergraduates and graduates, and offer activities for students seeking dry late-night options, committee members said, but the committee currently has no formal administrative backing nor specific ideas about funding or location.

“It is clear to me that we really need a student center. Students are gathering in ways that the colleges and their spaces simply can’t accommodate, and it is becoming harder and harder for masters to protect their space,” Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway said. “But the real problems are funding and space.”

Graduate Students Assembly Chair Lauren Tilton GRD ’16 said the committee — led by YCC member Nick Styles ’14, Graduate and Professional Schools Senate Senator Lucas Thompson GRD ’13 and herself — was formed after all three student bodies voted earlier this month to participate in a joint effort to propose a student center. Tilton and YCC President John Gonzalez began a discussion about collaborating to form a student center proposal in the fall, Tilton said.

Holloway said he thinks the main obstacles facing the Student Center Ad Hoc Committee are finding a space and funding, but he added that finding a location near the two new residential colleges would be ideal to draw students to the area.

There have been many smaller attempts to offer late-night, non-alcoholic recreational options for students, including Global Grounds and the Saybrook Underbrook coffeehouse, Holloway said, but these attempts have “probably not been enough.” In discussions between the Council of Masters and University Council Committee on Alcohol in Yale College last month, he said the idea of a student center came up as a way to promote a healthy culture around nighttime activities at Yale.

University Secretary and Vice President for Student Affairs Kimberly Goff-Crews said students have expressed interest in having more spaces available to meet with one another, and a University-wide student center could offer a solution.

No administrators serve on the Ad Hoc Committee, and Goff-Crews added she does not know of any administrators actively engaged in discussions about a student center. Styles and Tilton said the proposal is still in early stages, so they had not yet finalized with which administrators they planned to work.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the committee divided the work among the three groups, which will present their findings when the committee reconvenes on Feb. 27. Members of the YCC will survey all the current services and spaces — including common and seminar rooms, butteries, theaters and athletic facilities — currently available in the residential colleges, Styles said. The GSA will examine student center models at peer institutions including other Ivies, MIT and UVA, and the GPSS will examine which spaces and student life services are currently available in Yale’s graduate and professional schools, he added.

“When the Ad Hoc committee reconvenes in late February, we will use the information the three bodies have gathered to hopefully draft a proposal,” Styles said. “At that point, we will look more specifically at questions about the space and funding needed for this center.”

Gonzalez and Tilton said a student center would help centralize resources on campus and facilitate meetings with students from different residential colleges.

“If you look at Yale’s resources, they are very spread out. The Chaplain’s Office is sort of randomly on Old Campus, the Dean’s Office is in SSS,” Gonzalez said. “At most universities, these resources are condensed into one location so they’re easier to utilize.”

Students interviewed said a student center would be effective in offering additional meeting space, but do not think the space would diversify late-night options at Yale unless the space was student-run.

“It would have to be student-run or student-branded,” Caroline Smith ’14 said. “Maybe if it were a student job, because there has to be a coolness factor. The most important thing is the vibe of the entire place.”

Grace Chiang ’15 said that Yale is “definitely short on meeting spaces,” and she has often run into problems scheduling gatherings including students from several different residential colleges. The student center will only draw students if it is located close to central campus and offers a range of services in addition to meeting spaces, such as food and music, Chiang said.

Five YCC members currently serve on the Student Center Ad Hoc Committee.

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