Robbie Short

The inaugural classes in Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray College took a trip to Bridgeport’s Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum on Saturday, April 8 as part of a retreat before they transfer next year.

The trip was intended to bring the college communities closer together and form distinctive college cultures. After traveling to the park in the early morning, students split off for bonding workshops while others navigated the park’s extensive rope course. Throughout the day, students were encouraged to discuss the culture of the new colleges, goals for the future and new traditions.

“We had some full-group icebreaker activities and then split up into working groups in which we discussed the general nature of residential colleges, things that people liked and disliked about their current colleges and came up with recommendations for activities, events and traditions for Benjamin Franklin,” Franklin Head of College Charles Bailyn said.

The deans and heads of both colleges accompanied the students to the park. The students, who largely remained with their new colleges, climbed rope obstacle courses, played charades, brainstormed cheers and envisioned how each residential college would look as a community, explained Emil Beckford ’19, who is transferring into Murray in the fall.

In smaller groups, students exchanged pleasantries and shared their favorite aspect of their current colleges, Nadia Irwanto ’20 said, who added that many students mentioned their freshman initiations, nights spent in the buttery and college-specific traditions like Berkeley College’s annual “Thunder Brunch” as highlights. Irwanto said she personally enjoys the Branford Tea Room, a technology-free social space which she hopes to recreate in Benjamin Franklin and Murray colleges.

“We talked in particular about certain rooms we would love to see in the college, as well as committees,” said Murray transfer Jordan Lampo ’20. “We chatted about a library that would be student-built, get its books primarily from donations, and the such. We also expressed interest in pool tables in the basement and what we would like to see in the buttery.”

Irwanto, who will serve on the Benjamin Franklin social committee, said her workshop discussion focused on establishing good relationships with Yale Dining and facility staff in the college, since staff at other colleges are often treated as part of the environment rather than as community members. Some students even brainstormed an event where Yale students would be able serve the dining staff.

At the end of the retreat, students discussed plans to make the new colleges inclusive to both Yale students and the New Haven community, said Beckford, who offered programs like Global Grounds, talent shows and karaoke as opportunities for town-gown bonding.

In addition to excitement about the incoming freshman class, some students worried about not appearing as socially cohesive as older residential colleges. According to Jonathan Roig ’18, a freshman counselor in Benjamin Franklin College, some retreat participants voiced nervousness about leaving friends behind in their old residential colleges. Although most of his friends in Ezra Stiles will be transferring along with him, Roig said he will miss Stiles’ modern architecture and leadership. And while they look forward to their new college communities, both Lampo and Irwanto pointed out that the new colleges are far from the center of campus.

“Someone from [Timothy Dwight College] said that being at the perimeter made them really isolated,” said Irwanto, who mentioned that the new colleges’ location near Science Hill may induce similar isolation.

The trip to Bridgeport is one of a number of other bonding events this semester, which include a bingo night and an upcoming New Haven restaurant night.

“All of these activities were geared toward getting to know each other, having new experiences and creating traditions that will unite us in the future,” Bailyn said. “I certainly have a much better sense of the individual personalities in the new college.”

Only through group experiences can the college begin to forge a group identity, Bailyn added.

According to Benjamin Franklin Dean Jessie Hill and Murray Dean Alexander Rosas, Benjamin Franklin expects 210 transfers next year — not including freshmen — and Murray expects 226.