Tag Archive: Town-gown

  1. Where Work Meets Play(writing)

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    The lights came on, revealing a line of actors seated in front of microphones. A narrator sat on the side of the stage of the Off-Broadway Theater, providing directions while the actors spoke their lines. Their faces shifted from tense anxiety to comic ease between readings. They performed scenes that ran the gamut, from domestic drama to laugh-out-loud farce.

    Actors, playwrights and audience members had gathered together for the showcase of the O’Neill Playwriting Program, a year-long mentorship program that brings together Yale undergraduates, Yale School of Drama students and Co-op High School students. The showcase, entitled the Annual Festival of New Work, ran from Feb. 6 to Feb. 7, the fruit of many months’ labor. Students from the School of Drama performed 13 staged readings of original scripts developed by high school students and Yalies alike.

    Abigail Carney ’15 was one of four undergraduate mentors in the program. She had written a play tackling themes that tested her powers as a playwright. She had to strike a balance between considerations of race, abuse and justice in “Sunday Morning,” which was performed on the second night of the Festival of New Work.

    “What do you do when someone hasn’t clearly been raped, but there has been substantial emotional harm done?” she asked me while describing the central dilemma of the plot of her play.

    Carney’s play explored blurry and fraught topics of race and abuse, centering on the story of two girls who have recently graduated from college. “One of the girls is abused by the doorman of her apartment. The abuser is black and the girl is white,” said Carney. “It is the hardest play I have ever worked on.”

    Carney has found the O’Neill Playwriting Program to be integral to the development and consummation of this play. The fall semester of her freshman year, she worked on “Sunday Morning” in a playwriting class. She continued work on the play over the summer, finally sharing it during her enrollment in the O’Neill Playwriting program. On this night, all her hard work had come to fruition.

    The program, and the high school students she was paired with, brought in a “wonderful element” to the process of completing the play, she tells me. During her time in the program, the play materialized into a script.

    *  *  *

    The O’Neill Playwriting Program was founded in 1997. Since its inception, it has attempted to bridge the town-gown divide by dissolving boundaries of age and experience. Although it has undergone some changes in structure over the years, the program continues to provide a unique playwriting experience to budding playwrights and mature artists alike.

    The program began as the “O’Neill at Yale” project, under the auspices of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Its goal: to bring the Yale community and New Haven public school students together over a shared interest in the work of famed American dramatist Eugene O’Neill, whose seminal play “Long Day’s Journey into Night” was famously first published by the Yale University Press. In its earliest iteration, members of the program performed O’Neill’s works and wrote and produced original plays inspired by them.

    The program changed in 2005, said Lynda Blancato, current director of the program, coming closer to its current form. At the time, a chance meeting between the program’s artistic director and a high school theater teacher led to a partnership with Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School — an arts magnet school in downtown New Haven.

    The collaboration sought to include teachers as well as students. Blancato explained that the partnership extends to teachers at Co-op High School, who lead writing exercises alongside their students during the week of spring workshops. “The program isn’t designed explicitly for teachers, but they are a crucial part of its success,” said Blancato.

    *  *  *

    Wilfredo Ramos ’15, an English major, got involved with the O’Neill Playwriting Program this year. He heard about the program late in his Yale career and decided to give it go.

    For Ramos, the program has become an important outlet for creative expression as well as a place to connect with others. The O’Neill Playwriting Program brought together three different communities that had felt disconnected to him before, through a shared love of writing and a desire to hone the playwright’s craft. Ramos got to connect with students he wouldn’t have met otherwise.

    When reflecting on the O’Neill Playwriting Program’s setup and purpose, he emphasized its “distinctive cross-generational aspect.”

    This crossover spills into the art produced by the different groups of students. When three disparate groups come together to share creative space, the work that is done often proves lively and refreshing.

    Undergraduate member Dave Harris ’16 didn’t find this to be the case at the get-go: what he found was a hesitancy among his mentees to try something new. “What I noticed on the first day of the program was that the high school students  read … mostly Shakespeare,” Harris said. “I wanted a chance to teach them that their voice was significant, and no matter how insignificant they thought it was, it could be turned into art.”

    By the end of the program, Harris felt he had partly accomplished his mission, by releasing the students he was mentoring from the artistic restriction they initially felt, and which he himself felt while growing up.

    Carney echoes this sentiment. When the high school students finally found their personal voices and embraced those voices with pride, they delivered bold scripts. They came to pursue darker, more emotional themes.

    “Reading their scripts sometimes gave me insight into the kind of stuff high school students  actually deal with,” she said.

    Ryan Campbell DRA ’15 recalls several occasions when one of the high school students he was mentoring had a “breakthrough moment.” They saw how theater could actually relate to their own lives and be a vehicle for their own stories.

    *  *  *

    The O’Neill Playwriting Program not only has an artistic purpose — it builds a sense of community that goes beyond dramaturgical considerations.

    Robert Esposito, who has been teaching at Co-op High School since 2005, noted the impact the program had on his students — especially his African-American students.

    For one thing, Co-op students have found role models through the program: people who look like them, do the things they do and care about challenging them artistically.

    Esposito adds that the new, unfamiliar environment of the program confers benefits on the high school students. Co-op students are able to get out of the house and away from distractions. They have the chance to engage with their craft in a secluded, yet supportive community, whose close bond he partly attributes to a program retreat.

    “While on retreat, we got really close with the entire group of high school students as well as with the graduate students involved in the program,” says Anya Richkind ’16, an undergraduate involved in the program. The small size of the group made the program personal and intimate.

    *  *  *

    Despite the success the program has enjoyed thus far, challenges accompany a Yale-New Haven collaboration like this one.

    According to Blancato, “It’s a bit of a trick every year to find the right dates for the Annual Festival of New Work that don’t conflict with other performances and events at Yale or Co-op High School,” she said.

    But this might be a good problem to have. New Haven has an incredibly vibrant art scene, Blancato adds, and the O’Neill Playwriting Program is only a very small piece of that. It’s a little fish in a big pond.

    The O’Neill Playwriting Program, Harris emphasizes, marks a step toward fostering a lasting relationship between the arts scene at Yale and in New Haven. Harris hopes that this collaboration will be expanded to collaborations in other fields, such as spoken word poetry.

    “It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Through the program, students can come to Yale and hear their words read by Yale actors and take that work back to their homes in New Haven.”

  2. A New Haven for the Arts

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    The summer before her sophomore year, Emily Hays ’16 went to India. And there, like so many literary and cinematic heroines, she had a revelation.

    She was trying to learn Hindi, but found it difficult to practice in the new environment. So, she said, she had to speak to strangers. Though her conversations were often short and rudimentary, they helped her feel connected to her temporary home.

    “Those tiny interactions,” she said, “made me feel more a part of that community than I ever did in New Haven.”

    Back in Connecticut for the fall semester, Hays felt a “moral obligation” to extend that spirit of community. A lifelong arts enthusiast (music and art classes as a kid, a few art classes and various music ensembles in college), she wanted to foster a spirit of creativity and cooperation right here in New Haven.

    And that’s how Blue Haven, a new student organization encouraging artistic and creative collaboration, was born.

    * * *

    Yale students are ostensibly pretty good at talking to strangers. They ace college interviews, charm their friends’ parents and schmooze with professors during office hours. But casual conversations between Yalies and New Haven residents unaffiliated with the University are relatively rare. Hays thinks that should change.

    At the start of her sophomore year, inspired by her time abroad, she resolved to build a community in her adopted Connecticut home. She wanted to connect students with local New Haven artists. And after a semester of work, Hays put together a show in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

    The collaborative performance, called a “commingling,” bridged the town-gown gap, combining a variety of artistic modes including song, dance and poetry. “It’s about getting performers and artists together in the same space,” Hays said.

    Comminglings are informal and often improvised. Anyone who wants to participate is welcome, and Blue Haven members encourage attendees to perform in pairs, creating mixed media duets.

    Sarah Lemieux, a New Haven-based musician and music teacher, performed at that first event in January. During the

    show, she took part in an impromptu collaboration with Dave Harris ’16, a Yale spoken word poet.

    “He asked me to accompany him,” Lemieux said, “and we just came up with it on the spot.”

    Alexander Dubovoy ’16, a seasoned jazz musician and Blue Haven’s publicity director, also performed at the original commingling. He said the show was a fun opportunity to branch out from usual on-campus creative circles. Plus, “We got a great response from the Yale community.”

    Following that first show’s success, Hays realized she could do even more for the New Haven arts scene. She orchestrated a second event in the spring semester, an art exhibition. Still, it was a fledgling endeavor, and much of the organizational work fell to her.

    Today, Hays works with a group of equally dedicated students — Blue Haven has grown into a full-blown, Yale-approved organization. (The name doesn’t have any particular meaning. “One of my friends just came up with a series of puns on New Haven,” Hays explained.) The group’s membership has expanded in the last year, and so has its scope.

    “Now it’s not just about being in the same space,” Hays said. “It’s about creating new art together, through combined inspiration.

    Though Blue Haven remains in its first semester of official existence, Hays and her fellow arts enthusiasts are already planning several events. Their first collaborative project will involve Kingdom Café, a regular open mic for New Haven youth, on Nov. 21 at the Afro-American Cultural Center.

    “Kingdom Cafe gathers upwards of 80 people a month, most of whom are high school aged,” said Kingdom Cafe leader George Black. The students are free to sing and dance and share poetry or visual art, he explained.

    Now, Yale students will also get to perform at their November event. Blue Haven and Kingdom Cafe members will be paired for their performances, said Black. “It gives me great joy to see a partnership forming where New Haven peoples, including Yale students, can be exposed to the powerful expression of New Haven’s youth.”

    In January, Blue Haven will form a similar partnership with The Future Project, a mentorship group for teens that encourages creativity and innovation. With these new affiliations, Hays aims to cement institutional relationships as well as personal ones. She’d like to ensure that students and local artists continue collaborating in coming years, long after she graduates.

    * * *

    Still, the 313-year relationship between Yale and New Haven is, in a word, complicated. It’s a well-known trope: disharmony between the University and the city beyond its glorious, swipe-access-protected gates.

    “A lot of the time, people talk about New Haven in terms of crime statistics,” said Hays. She thinks that some Yale students consider it a sinister place, a reputation reinforced by worried parents and out-dated college guidebooks.

    As a result, many students feel like they exist in the “Yale Bubble,” rarely leaving central campus and almost never engaging with the community at large.

    To Lucy Wang ’17, a student in Morse, the city does feel fractured. “It’s absurd that I don’t feel safe walking two blocks off campus,” she said. “I once talked to someone from New Haven who described Yale as a castle that no one else can access. It’s like two different worlds.”

    But many on-campus groups are working to improve the relationship between city and university. Becca Steinberg ’15, president of the New Haven Urban Debate League, believes that students should expand the way they think about the Elm City.

    “It’s not like we’re just at Yale for four years,” she said. “We’re in New Haven for four years.”

    The Urban Debate League partners with New Haven high schools and middle schools to provide debate coaching and host monthly competitions. That way, local students can have more opportunities to debate, and Yale students can build long-term relationships with their mentees.

    Steinberg feels a sense of responsibility to the city. “We have an obligation to reach out and really interact with the broader community,” she said. “It’s important to build that mutual back-and-forth.”

    For Blue Haven, that mutual back-and-forth is a symbiosis among all kinds of artists. And Hays believes that this cooperation benefits artists and audiences alike. A student who sees friends collaborating with local performers might realize that community extends beyond the four corners of a residential college (37 corners if you’re in Morse or Stiles).

    “There’s a common idea that New Haven is a security problem. This is a way of counteracting that conception,” Hays said. “There is so much richness here.”

    * * *

    While Yalies are perpetually inundated with Facebook invites to improv and YSO shows, they don’t always remember the larger arts community that surrounds them, said Dubovoy. “If you weren’t looking for it,” he said, “you wouldn’t necessarily find it.”

    “I know of some local art spaces,” Wang said. “But other than that, I sort of assume that arts-related people would have something to do with Yale.”

    In reality, outside the Gothic-and-Sometimes-Georgian Bubble, local artists are thriving. “It’s a really vibrant and diverse community,” Lemieux said.

    She named a variety of musical spaces, the majority of which are probably unknown to the average Yale student. “You have a fantastic symphony orchestra, a bunch of little hole-in-the-wall venues. Then there are more established places like Café Nine and Firehouse 12,” she said.

    That vibrant and diverse community is also larger than some might think. According to its website, the Arts Council of Greater New Haven serves around 130,000 artists, arts organizations and the general public each year.

    Even if you missed Aaron Carter at Toad’s, you still have plenty of opportunities to sample New Haven’s arts scene. Kingdom Café holds open-mic nights once a month. From Nov. 19 to Jan. 2 the Arts Council will host an art exhibition called More Than a Face, featuring self-portraiture without depictions of the face. And each summer, a huge number of musicians and artistic visionaries attend the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

    Student groups and professional ones have always had resonant interests and aims. The problem, Dubovoy said, was that “no one had combined all of these goals into a forum for interplay between Yale and New Haven.”

    That’s where Blue Haven comes in. But even with the group’s early successes, it’s still trying to gain a dedicated following at Yale and in the surrounding city. Hays and her companions are currently looking for interested Yalies with organizational and coordinating skills, as well as potential performers.

    The foundation is in place. Members will keep commingling. And with each new partnership and performance, that Yale Bubble will get a little thinner.

    “I want to make sure this group lasts,” said Hays. “We want to create spaces where New Haven and Yale people feel really comfortable together. Where they’re creating together all the time.”

  3. Give and Take

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    “You guys brought your lunch?” Poncho Jackson focused his gaze on the bags of food student volunteers had carried into the Community Soup Kitchen in Christ Church. The plastic bags each contained two turkey or ham sandwiches neatly packaged in Saran wrap, a bag of chips, an apple, a large brownie and a plastic water bottle with a bold blue label — Yale.

    Without skipping a beat, Jackson burst into laughter, amused that the students had chosen to bring their own food to a place whose purpose was serving it. The kitchen provides lunch to the homeless and hungry four days a week, with Jackson serving as the dining supervisor.

    Christ Church stands at 84 Broadway, across the street from such Yale staples as the Yale Bookstore, the Apple Store and Urban Outfitters. But for Genevieve Simmons ’17 and the four other students who volunteered to work at the soup kitchen during Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, the building was unfamiliar. When the group first passed by the large Gothic church on the way from Dwight Hall, they kept on walking.

    Simmons and her friends spent the first two hours at the soup kitchen grouping plastic spoons and forks, chopping up ham in the kitchen and bagging bananas to be donated. Simmons was standing behind a large countertop, slicing a pound of ham on a cutting board when Jackson called her over to the dining area to break for lunch.

    The oversized bags of food remained in a closet, and Simmons stood in line behind four other student-volunteers. A vegetarian, she politely declined the meatloaf and accepted a tray of pasta salad and green beans from the same counter where, within an hour, over one hundred New Haven residents would file in to receive lunch.

    Simmons believes that leaving campus once in a while is important. She runs through East Rock, bikes through downtown and has even jogged out to the University of Southern Connecticut. But staying in the walls of the University is easy, she said, adding that the idea of a “Yale bubble” certainly exists. Everything you need — food, shelter, your classes, your friends — are within a one-mile radius.

    The University, however, strongly encourages students to explore the city, particularly through community service. The University  offers the President’s Public Service Fellowship, which funds opportunities for students to work in New Haven’s public sector for up to 11 weeks during the summer. And on its official website, Yale highlights its ongoing partnership with the Elm City, proudly proclaiming that “more than 2,500 undergraduates — nearly one-half of all Yale College students — volunteer in community service activities in New Haven.”

    According to a News survey sent to a randomized sample of undergraduates, 60 percent of the 142 respondents said they feel obligated to do some form of service work during their time at Yale. And 38 percent of those surveyed said they are currently a member of Dwight Hall, Yale’s center for social justice and public service. The group serves as an umbrella for 89 student-led service groups, addressing education, public health, social justice and international issues.

    Despite these encouraging numbers, the true impact of Yale students’ service work is difficult to quantify. As Dwight Hall Executive Director Peter Crumlish DIV ’09 asked, “Can you really say, by the end of this week we created more ‘good’ in the world?”

     

    FROM OLD CAMPUS TO FAIR HAVEN

    A looming 19th century brownstone, Dwight Hall overlooks Old Campus as an unmistakable emblem of Yale, witnessing the daily rhythms of university life. But the building is also a stone’s throw away from the New Haven Green, a busy centerpiece of the city that ends almost at the point where Old Campus begins.

    Dwight Hall was founded by Yale undergraduates in 1886. The organization grew out of an expression of Christian belief — one focused on giving to the poor and needy, Crumlish recounted.

    “[In those days], it was the mindset of people who were privileged and went to a university like this that because they are privileged, they should find the needy and help them,” he said. “But that’s not the mindset anymore.”

    Today, Dwight Hall provides an opportunity for students to connect with the real problems facing the community.

    For Sophia Weissmann ’14, service manifests itself in her work as a Public School Intern at Fair Haven School, a K-8 institution that serves predominantly Latino and immigrant families. Weissmann explained that going to Fair Haven School is about much more than community service. It’s about learning how teachers and administrators interact; it’s about getting off campus and really understanding what it means to be a part of a city; and it’s about discovering her own place within New Haven, separate from Yale.

    “For me,” Weismann noted, “Dwight Hall has been the cornerstone of the way I understand my place in the community.”

    In contrast to other schools, whose center for community service is coordinated by the Dean’s Office. Dwight Hall functions as its own non-profit organization independent of the University. Students play a critical role in the governance of the organization. The leaders of Dwight Hall member groups make up the cabinet, which votes to promote provisional member groups to full member status and also elects the Student Executive Committee — 12 students who allocate funds and communicate with group leaders about Dwight Hall requirements and resources.

    The benefit of this model, Crumlish explained, is that beyond just providing service opportunities, Dwight Hall allows students to develop leadership skills and take initiative on their own projects, unburdened by any expectation to pursue specific forms of work.

    “We don’t tell people this is how you should make the world better,” Crumlish said. “If you have an idea, it’s our job to help you be as effective as possible.”

     

    THE DICHOTOMY OF HELP

    On a Wednesday morning last fall, Weissmann entered Fair Haven School’s Family Resource Center to find coordinator Luz Betancur bent over a desk, examining a scattered array of CD-ROMs along with a new computer and printer she had just received from the district. At 8:45 that morning, Weissmann had boarded the city bus on the corner of Orange and Chapel Street, prepared to perform her usual task: supervising preschoolers while their mothers took an English language class in the library. But within minutes, Weissmann found herself trying to install a printer, working more as a technician than a teacher.

    At the end of her two-hour shift, the printer still didn’t work. The following week, Weissmann returned to the Center and spent over two more hours on the phone with tech support, following detailed instructions to install the software. Determined to fix the problem, she was late to her afternoon class back at Yale. When the printer company, Hewlett-Packard, agreed that Weissmann had exhausted all possibilities, it deemed the printer defective and promised to deliver a replacement.

    After two more weeks of frustration, the new printer finally arrived. This time around, the machine cooperated.

    In a mixture of excitement and relief, Weissmann screamed with delight, “Yes, Luz, we did it, we did this together!”

    “I know it’s a small thing, but it was so satisfying,” Weissmann recounted. “Some of the things I do are really fun and inspiring … setting up a printer is neither fun nor inspiring, but it’s one of those things you might have to do when you are working in a school.”

    As a PSI, Weissmann serves as liaison between Yale and Fair Haven, finding ways to best match University resources with the needs of the school. Rather than approaching her role in service as a “provider,” Weissmann said she goes into the school to learn about and help meet its needs.

    But some students approach service entirely differently.

    Like Weissmann, Suzannah Holsenbeck ’05 served as a PSI in college. Among those engaged in service, there was a clear dichotomy, she said. While some students learned about the issues facing New Haven before determining how they could help, others immediately felt they had a solution to the city’s problems and the power to “save everybody.” Those students who carefully evaluate the needs of New Haven are usually more effective, she explained.

    Even today, there are students who are skeptical about  Yalies’ approach to service. Last semester, MEChA de Yale, a Dwight Hall social justice group, began leading protests every Friday against Gourmet Heaven’s alleged unfair labor practices.

    Some students, like MEChA Community Action Chair Evelyn Nunez ’15, consider boycotting the 24-hour deli as a way to work towards fair wages and worker justice, but others assert that students do not need to interfere in such issues.

    In a New Haven Independent article that has circulated widely among local residents since its publication on Jan 15., Alexander Saeedy ’15 said he chose to ignore the protests and continue purchasing food at Gourmet Heaven because students do not have a place in this fight.

    “I’m doing me. The Department of Labor will do them,” Saeedy told the Independent during a protest earlier this month. “I think this is emblematic of this belief Yale students have that they can create a world free of problems and full of happiness and justice.”

    Whether the act of protesting outside of Gourmet Heaven will create justice is yet to be seen, but most students do agree that they can — to some degree — make positive change during their four years at Yale. Only 1 percent of those surveyed indicated that students cannot make any positive change, and 25 percent said students can positively impact the city “to a large extent.”

    The complexities of New Haven’s needs have not dissuaded students from establishing more service groups each year. James Doss-Gollin ’15 founded New Haven REACH in 2011, a group that aims to increase college access for youth in the city. REACH became a provisional Dwight Hall member group January 2013.

    Doss-Gollin said he is thankful for the resources Dwight Hall provides, particularly monetary funds and printing access. Through Dwight Hall, he has also found other Yale groups doing similar service projects on campus and has combined resources with some of these organizations.

    “It’s nice to be able to count on them for our basic needs,” Doss-Gollin said. “It’s a lot better than having to write even more grants.”

    But with a growing demand for service work-related funding, not all member groups have been able to receive the amount they requested.

     

    GROWING PAINS

    While operating as a non-profit allows Dwight Hall to maintain independence and foster student leadership, it also means that the organization cannot rely on Yale for all of its funding. Yale provides Dwight Hall with its building, some monetary support as well as some in-kind donations, but as with other registered non-profits, Dwight Hall relies on grants and donor support for most of its monetary resources

    According to a “fact sheet” released by Dwight Hall, the Yale University Office of New Haven and State Affairs (ONHSA) contributed 5 percent of Dwight Hall’s nearly $900,000 operating budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The remainder of this sum was funded by a combination of grants, individual donors, facility rentals and its endowment. Each Dwight Hall member group is required to complete four hours per semester of Phonathon, during which members call potential donors to solicit contributions to the organization. Twenty-seven percent of the 2013-2014 budget is supported by donor funds, the fact sheet notes.

    Still, several members of Dwight Hall groups interviewed cited a shortage of funds as one of the biggest roadblocks currently facing the organization.

    “We are financially strained by the resources we have,” said William Redden ’14, who served as Dwight Hall’s Financial Coordinator two years ago. “We are capable of [obtaining our own funds] but could always use more from Yale.” Redden noted that because Dwight Hall operates independently of Yale, the group is responsible for a large share of its development.

    Over the past decade, Dwight Hall has grown tremendously, both in the number of member groups and in the amount of service each group performs. In the past 10 years, member groups have increased from 66 to 89, Crumlish said. The influx of groups has meant more funding requests. Though Dwight Hall has increased the total amount of money it allocates, supply has struggled to meet demand.

    The executive committee accepts funding applications from its groups each semester. The amount of money requested from the Campus Community Fund — the principal source of funding for Dwight Hall groups — has grown significantly over the past two years. In the fall of 2011, member groups requested a total of $18,321.91 and in the fall of 2013, that number had risen to $27,180.34, according to data collected by the student executive committee.

    During these semesters, Dwight Hall only distributed  $8,544.13 and $12,523.87, respectively. The student executive committee has the difficult job of determining who should and should not receive funding. After the committee accepts or rejects a group’s funding request, the group must submit their receipts before they actually receive money from the Campus Community Fund. Thus, the difference between funding requests and allocations is in part attributable to groups spending less than they initially requested, former student financial coordinator Michael Wolner ’14 said. But he added that Dwight Hall could not possibly fulfill all of the requests it receives.

    “If, during my fall semester, we had given out everything that was requested, we would have used up the budget for the entire year,” he noted.

     

    REACHING ACROSS THE GREEN

    As far back as he can remember, Doss-Gollin’s Sundays morning were spent at Church of the Redeemer on Whitney Ave. and Cold Spring St., and week nights were for playing soccer in New Haven’s youth leagues. When he walked past the gates of Old Campus, it was a foreign and imposing space.

    As a senior at Wilbur Cross High School, Doss-Gollin considered himself lucky to have parents who hold college degrees. He had two people who could help him navigate the application process, but a lot of his friends were left floundering.

    “My parents knew that at the end of Junior year, it’s time to start thinking about college and SATs,” he said. “But a lot of my friends — their parents didn’t go to college, some didn’t finish high school, and some didn’t even speak English.”

    During his first year at Yale, Doss-Gollin’s younger friends sent him their college admissions essays for editing. The following year, he received a flood of about 20 applications — students from his high school soccer team and friends from his church who wanted guidance. When Doss-Gollin discovered that his classmates at Yale were excited to help read through these applications, he realized that he had an opportunity to create a significant impact on the lives of public school students in the city.

    In the summer of 2011, Doss-Gollin worked with two of his friends to create a website and founded REACH.

    Starting a group from scratch wasn’t easy. When Doss-Gollin and his friends called New Haven Public Schools to tell them about REACH, they were met with trepidation. The schools were accustomed to having multiple Yale groups come in, and they didn’t necessarily want more help.

    Doss-Gollin recounted a conversation with an administrator who seemed frustrated that so many students from the University want to have access to their schools. Even if they are well-intentioned, the official explained, they don’t always understand how the school operates or what the children’s lives are like outside of school.

    As a native of New Haven, Doss-Gollin understands where the administrator was coming from.

    “I think a lot of people are rightfully a little cautious of groups wanting to come in and tell them how to do things,” he said. “Sometimes, especially from the perspective of an overworked administrator, it can be more work than it’s worth.”

    And saying that you go to Yale carries a whole other set of implications, he added.

    When Doss-Gollin was a student at Wilbur Cross, he and his friends would formulate theories about why Yale students stayed trapped inside of a bubble. “Was it because they were scared of us, or because they didn’t like us? My friends and I came up with all sorts of theories.”

    While hostility towards Yale students doing service does exist, Claudia Merson, Director of Public School Partnerships at Yale, said it has lessened over time. When Merson began her post in 1995, working with the schools was markedly more challenging than it is now. There wasn’t a designated liaison between the school and Yale. Students communicated directly with the school principal, who was likely busy with more pressing issues.

    That same year, Merson helped found the PSI program for Yale students.

    “We call them the semipermeable membrane,” Merson said. “They are working in two different worlds … PSI’s have to be bilingual and bicultural.”

    The relationship has also improved, Merson said, because NHPS and Yale have coordinated their calendars so that each side knows when events and tutoring sessions are feasible.

    Still, Holsenbeck recalled being met with some hostile reactions from teachers as a PSI in 2004.

    “When I went into schools, there were teachers who didn’t want anything to do with me just because I was a Yale student,” she said. “They felt [we] were snobby, that Yale students had flaked in the past … they had ideas of what Yale represented.”

    Even now, having student volunteers can sometimes be a burden. On the MLK Day of Service, the natural rhythms of the soup kitchen were interrupted by its five student visitors.

    Jackson had to orient the students around the kitchen and explain how the process would work: In about two hours, over 100 people would line up out the door to get their lunch. Some might be mentally ill, others might come in drunk, Jackson said, reassuring the students that he would protect them if a difficult situation arose

    Having a new group of volunteers — while helpful — introduces its own set of challenges

    “Sometimes, having Yalies, or really any volunteer group, come in, is more work than help,” Jackson admitted. “They finish one task, and then they just sit there instead of asking what to do next … And then we also have to watch out for their safety.”

    But Jackson suggested that service is perhaps the best way to establish a connection between Yale and New Haven, however tenuous. Still, he thinks more needs to be done in order to truly close the divide.

    “This could be the beginning of a bridge, but Yale and New Haven are still separate entities,” he said.

     

    CYCLES OF PROGRESS

    On next year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jackson will likely go through the same process again: explaining what the soup kitchen does, that spoon goes on top of fork, and that it’s two, not three, bananas per bag. Perhaps Simmons will sign up to go to a different site, or maybe she will have another commitment and won’t participate in the Day of Service at all.

    Each year, a group of student leaders graduates and a new cohort of freshman —  many of whom have never been to New Haven — become residents of the city. Dwight Hall groups cycle through leaders and must work with students whose goals may diverge from those of their predecessors. Given this constant rotation, sustainability becomes an important factor in evaluating the effectiveness of Yale students’ service.

    When Holsenbeck returned to Yale five years after graduating, she discovered that many Dwight Hall groups, fully functional during her time as a student, had completely disappeared. Only “a handful,” she remarked, were still going strong.

    The groups that remained, such as Community Health Educators and Elmseed Enterprise Fund, were the ones with a sustainable model. To be sustainable, student groups must have a clear mission and had a logical plan for leadership transitions, Holsenbeck said.

    Doss-Gollin said REACH recently underwent a board change. The model is sustainable, he explained, because while he is no longer in charge of the organization, he is still involved and available to help the new student leaders maintain the program.

    Among the students who REACH assisted last year is Alondra Arguello ’17. She signed up for REACH when the organization’s email address was written on a classroom blackboard. She immediately emailed the group and was matched with student mentor Marisol Dahl ’15.

    Arguello credits REACH with part of her Yale acceptance. Dahl would revise her essays within hours and Arguello would send them back, receiving additional feedback almost immediately.

    Now, Arguello said, she feels empowered to help other students reach their full potential. She is currently organizing a panel of Yale students to lead an informal discussion with NHPS students who want to pursue college. Despite the stark differences between Yale and New Haven, she said, there is still good reason to bridge the gap.

    Arguello recalled that in high school, “People viewed Yale as a place where they would never be.” Now, she remarked, “This is my place.”

     

    Correction: Jan. 24

    A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Dwight Hall was founded in 1866. In fact, the organization was established in 1886.

  4. Too (s)kool for school

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    212 College Street is no Linsly-Chittenden Hall. It lacks the classroom building’s mammoth, marble stairwell, its luminous chandelier, its austere, oval Harkness tables. It lacks heat.

    Here — at the People’s Art Collective — you’re a far cry from your English section in LC 209. You’re not in for a discussion on Dante but you can still learn about literature in a class called “Art & the Poetic Function.” Maybe you’re a science person and would rather take part in “Do It Yourself Herbal Medicine” or “Fermentation,” like chemistry sans the test tubes and titration. These are just three of the 13 classes offered at the New Haven Free Skool, the first project of the fledging People’s Art Collective, which opened its doors last fall at the corner of College and Crown streets, just a block and a half from Phelps Gate.

    At the Free Skool, you won’t be graded on your work. You don’t have to apply and your classes don’t have prerequisites. You can take one class or all 13. And you won’t pay a dime.

    Each hour of class at Yale costs roughly $100. My math is admittedly inexact: I arrive at that figure based on $42,300 in tuition and approximately 13 hours of class per week and 27 weeks of classes per year. But the exact calculation is not important. This week, I went to school for free — or skool, I should say.

    “The misspelling is intentional and absolutely central,” I learn from one of the school’s organizers, Diana Ofosu ’12, who founded PAC along with Kenneth Reveiz ’12 and Gabriel DeLeon ’14 last September. “The ‘k’ signifies alternative pedagogy. It makes it clear that we’re interested in a different way of learning.”

    I start to see what sort of learning that is when I arrive at my first Free Skool class Monday evening — Herbal Medicine.

    “LIFE ELIXIRS”

    I push open the glass front door to find five people seated in a circle of folding-chairs and a piano bench. As I scan the group for a teacher — it’s a collection of 20- to 40-year-olds, three women and two men, of racially diverse backgrounds — a slight woman in jeans and a neon vest speaks up. I learn that she is the instructor, a Woodbridge, Conn. native named Diane Litwin who gained experience in holistic medicine from working on an experimental farm for two years after college. As Litwin assembles a collection of herb-infused oils, one of the students, Jackie Trickett-Sargent, tells me she’s here because of her broader interest in fermentation, something she’s been experimenting with on her own. Trickett-Sargent, a resident of East Haven, works with Yale’s Information Technology Services.

    As we pass around tinctures — herb-infused oils — to smell, Diane speaks of the different plants that give the concoctions their fragrance: plantain, lavender, calendula and St. John’s wort. She then turns the class loose to research the medicinal properties of each herb. The students rise from their chairs and move to the back of the room, which is outfitted with rows of unfinished wood tables folding up to white walls plastered with posters.

    “FOOD NOT BOMBS” a sign reads in all caps on one wall. That’s also the name of one of the Free Skool’s most popular classes, Ofosu tells me. It meets on Saturday, when students gather at PAC to cook food acquired through the week in a series of “dumpster dives.” Ofosu calls it a “food rescue and redistribution mission.” Broccoli and pie crusts are typical finds, she says, gems amid the trash outside the Trader Joe’s in Orange, Conn.

    They cook the meal all together back at PAC, using donated hot plates and crock-pots.

    One of those crock-pots sits on a back table in the room as the students in Herbal Medicine flip through medicinal plant textbooks for information on the herbs, instructed by Litwin to write down each herb’s medicinal qualities on the dry-erase board hanging on the back wall. Lavender, we learn, cures headaches and insomnia and can be used to treat open sores. St. John’s wort restores nerve tissue and treats acne. As the students write up each herb’s medicinal benefits, one asks if he should avoid mixing marker colors.

    “Use your creative freedom,” Litwin jokes in reply.

    Turning from the board to a table strewn with cooking supplies, Litwin explains that all it takes to make a salve is a quarter cup of beeswax to one cup of herb-infused oil. Describing them as “life elixirs,” Litwin says she uses the salves on her face and hands when she feels like she’s getting sick. Later, she calls the oils her “friends.”

    “I feel like an alchemist,” one student remarks as he grates a block of beeswax into the crock-pot filled with a cup of oil.

    Set over a light, the beeswax soon melts into the concoction, and we ladle it out into small glass jars that the students take home with them.

    CREATIVE CONNECTIONS

    At Sketch Comedy on Wednesday evening, I meet Eliza Caldwell and her five students, though, as with the Herbal Medicine, they tell me attendance in the class was once higher. According to Reveiz, 150 students are registered for the current session of the school, now in its second term. 19 teachers guide a total of 13 classes this session. Some are co-taught, such as Queer Art, Thought and Action, a course on LGBTQ issues that Reveiz leads along with a Yale Ph.D. student.

    “Anyone who emails us or who we think could provide something galvanizing for the community we let teach,” Reveiz tells me.

    Caldwell’s experience with sketch comedy comes from her participation in a college improv group at the University of Connecticut, where she went to school before coming to live in New Haven.

    She guides the group through a series of warm ups and exercises, as students improvise scenes of bashful children, blind dates and suicide hotline centers. At the end of the session, Caldwell lingers behind with a number of students, including Alex Lew ’15. They discuss forming a New Haven improv group and consider possible venues.

    Lew, who is a member of the Yale Ex!t Players improv comedy group, says he’s taking the class to learn technique — but also to make new friends.

    “It’s always great to get the perspective of other improvisationalists, to experiment with someone who learned their technique somewhere else,” he explains. “There’s something about doing improv all the time with a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds who share the same cultural references based on similar backgrounds as largely upper-middle-class Yale students. Taking this class is a really cool way to make friends with people who come from a different sort of community. Improv relies so much on trust, support and friendship.”

    A NEW WAY OF SCHOOLING

    The dearth of community centers in New Haven has not gone unnoticed among city leaders. Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12 is currently working on plans to revamp the Goffe Street Armory into a youth and neighborhood center. Eidelson and Citywide Youth Coalition Director Rachel Heerema have said that the closing of the Dixwell “Q” House has left a hole in the community that needs to be filled.

    “It’s absurd that there’s no real community center in New Haven,” Reveiz tells me. He adds that the PAC is specifically designed to provide a safe space and “support group for queer youth.”

    Language from the group’s webpage lays out PAC’s focus on “the creative agency of women, queer-identifying folks, people of color and youth.”

    Reveiz says the organizers’ feelings of privilege weigh heavily on the project.

    “I’ve heard of other people trying to start art projects or things like this, and they just hit a wall,” he said. “We’re lucky — and we’re highly aware of our positions of privilege.”

    212 College St. became home to PAC with the help of Helen Kauder, who runs Artspace and sits on the board of the Co-Op Center for Creativity. Artspace is a contemporary art gallery and non-profit arts advocacy organization located at 50 Orange St., just three blocks down Crown Street from PAC. Established in 2009, the Center for Creativity leases storefronts from the Co-Op Arts & Humanities High School. Reveiz, Ofosu and DeLeon, who are artists-in-residence at the Center, are subletting the space for $250 per month. The Collective has raised over $3,000 by crowdsourcing through Indiegogo, an online platform for crowdfunding, and community fundraising. At the Free Skool, they go without central heating, using space heaters when the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

    “I think a lot of it has to do with the privilege and recognition that come with being Yale alums,” Reveiz says, speaking of their success in using makeshift means of running the school. “The question is how can we use that privilege to give people a kind of hope. People have very little to do who lack jobs or after work if they do have jobs, and that contributes to violence and a general culture of fear.”

    When I ask her about the potential impact of the Free Skool, Eidelson describes the operation as “an exciting community and youth space.” She says more programs in the city should be free of charge.

    Reveiz echoes that sentiment. He says money increasingly pervades all social interactions, and that the Free Skool is an experiment in extricating education from market forces.

    Taking away the need to pay allows the school to cut across myriad communities, whereas “education is often only for those who can afford it,” Reveiz explains. The intersection of historically separate communities is one that he says the program is uniquely situated to foster.

    “The school pushes people to a kind of realness. Yale students will introduce themselves as sophomores to people who might not consider being a sophomore a pertinent identity category,” he explains. “A lot of New Haven residents are sometimes turned off or intimidated by Yale students, and our challenge is against that, too. It’s really cool — people are making friends across communities.”

    About 40 to 50 percent of Free Skool students are affiliated with Yale. For these students especially, the Free Skool may come as a culture shock, says Ofosu.

    At Yale, she continues, education is “formalized,” students relating to teachers in a strict hierarchy. Learning at the Free Skool happens by “engaging others as equals.”

    Reveiz says the Free Skool represents education-as-community-building. The school is animated by the idea of a more democratic model of education that emphasizes “empowerment and generosity.”

    Free schools exist nationwide — in Buffalo, in Austin, in Santa Cruz — Ofosu tells me. These models served as inspiration when she and her fellow PAC leaders were considering the potential work of their collective. When I call the Free Skool a project, she corrects me, saying they call their work “interventions.”

    “We think of what we’re doing at the Skool as an intervention into modes of living that are unsustainable or unjust,” Ofosu says.

    WHERE ART MEETS ACTIVISM

    When I ask Ofosu and Reveiz about the politics behind the school, they are reticent to endorse a specific political ideology.

    “We all have our own political motivations,” Ofosu says.

    Ultimately, Ofosu said, the Free Skool — and PAC as a whole — aims to work toward a new type of activism, one that fuses politics with artistic creation.

    “I’m interested in proactively building alternatives to oppressive modes of being,” she says. “A lot of activism is reactionary — terrible shit happens and you need to respond. I’m into that, but the artist in me feels passionately about actively building new spaces to access information outside of dominant modes of knowledge.”

    The front windows of PAC are covered in artwork and posters. One window is emblazoned with the Collective’s logo. Another is painted with the words “Justice for Jewu.” Jewu Richardson is a New Haven man fighting a felony charge based on reports he crashed into a police car shortly before being shot in the chest. The PAC logo is nuanced and colorful, with patterned shapes arranged to form its letters. “Justice for Jewu” is painted in stark black letters.

    Though its organizers disclaim an overt political agenda, the Free Skool is not isolated from the political and social needs of the community it serves. As the Yale grads both tell me, this is a place where art and activism meet.

    “The Free Skool is a way of advancing relationships and actions that root out a multiplicity of oppressions we see in this city — racial, economic, gender-based,” Reveiz says. “This is a social infrastructure that represents something more like a world we want to live in.”

  5. City musiq // City limits

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    It was getting late and cold. No one had shown up yet, and pre-rap anxiety was beginning to set in.

    I stood outside a house on Dwight St. last Friday with Ron Yeezy and a few other members of Rosette City Musiq, a New Haven rap collective. Ron was wearing his RCM hoodie and a Yale hat. Little bits of small talk were being traded. Last night was crazy, crazy. Hope there’ll be some freaks here tonight. Look, if you’re worried about security, listen. You can’t pat down girls. Not even cops will pat down girls.

    It was an unlikely group of people brought together by an unlikely idea: to bridge the cultural divide between Yale and New Haven through — what else? — an all-out insanity-fueled party.

    The idea for the rap show was conceived by Alan Sage ’14, Yale student and hip-hop enthusiast. Alan is easygoing, white, well-spoken. He had already spent a great deal of time reaching out to the New Haven hip-hop community through Middleman, a group that aims to connect Yale students with inner-city residents. The Yale undergrads living at 216 Dwight St., site of many a lo-fi indie rock concert, had offered their basement as a venue. I was brought in to help out with sound equipment. And so a rap show was born.

    As we chatted, someone noticed a car parked up the street. Ron and his group eyed it uneasily.

    “Do you know who it is?” someone asked. “Not with us.”

    The car stayed there for over a half an hour, quietly humming. Someone from RCM walked by it to take a look. A few of the guys looked a little nervous. Then again, feeling nervous seemed normal for them.

    “Nothing would ever happen at a Yale event,” Alan said uncertainly.

    I went down into the basement to set up the microphones. An exuberant DJ was testing out the virtual turntable. I asked him if I could give it a spin. “Wait til I get my money right,” he said. “This’ll be vinyl.” Someone wandered downstairs and asked me if they could smoke weed.

    Upstairs, the car had disappeared, and everyone was visibly relieved. People were beginning to trickle in. Not Yale students, but people. Ron and Alan greeted them, an unlikely pair. The guys were met with warm hugs. Ron, to the girls: “You look overdressed. Head on in.” Small packs of curious Yalies began to show up, standing close to one another, and far away from everyone else. People clustered in the darker corners of the basement.

    “I see you, Yale!” shouted the DJ. He grinned.

    And then, suddenly — as always happens, but as one never quite expects — the party exploded into being. A critical mass of revelers had formed, and more were pouring in, and more and more. Everything seemed to be rising constantly, a force of nature, a bonfire. Rappers — how many of them were there? — shouted their lyrics out into the crowd; somehow, at the same time, they were the crowd. The DJ swelled up, proud of his Yale party, proud of his crew for being there. The mysterious car had already become a thing of myth: “I swear, a guy in a ski mask got out of it and ran into that house!” Two girls were making smart use of a pole. Giant bottles of alcohol flickered around. Yalies wandered in, shouted “This is awesome,” and melted into the mass. Others, intimidated, chose to escape.

    I noticed Alan Sage, Yale student and hip-hop enthusiast, standing to the side. He was astonished, wide-eyed and very happy. A cheer for Rosette City Musiq roared from the crowd in unison. We gazed over the chaos and wondered at what we had created. Or whether nobody had created it at all.

  6. Seven Elm City restaurants fail health inspections

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    Seven out of 39 food establishments in New Haven have failed health inspection tests that were conducted after the eateries faced a fire or flood.

    Restaurants, grocery stores, bars and other food establishments are inspected one to four times a year, or after severe water or fire damage. A failing score is anything below an 80 out of 100, and restaurants that did not pass this year include Elm City Seafood & Grill, Rice Pot Thai Cuisine and Gloria’s Grocery.

    But, Yalies can still breathe easily — a majority of establishments did pass the test, including Davenport and Jonathan Edwards Colleges. Jonathan Edwards passed with a score of 89, just edging out Davenport, which received a score of 85.

    But Davenport students should remember not take the loss too harshly — the results of the health inspection will not show up in Tyng Cup standings.

  7. Briefly: While you were out

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    The news didn’t stop this summer, and neither did the News. In case you haven’t been keeping up, here’s a digest of the top stories of the past few months.

    Yale-NUS tensions flare

    Unease over civil liberties at Yale-NUS College surged this summer when a July 16 article in the Wall Street Journal cited Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis as saying protests and political parties would not be permitted on the school’s campus in Singapore.

    Lewis said the article paraphrased him incorrectly and told the News in July that “all forms of political expression consistent with Singaporean law” will be allowed at Yale-NUS. But when pressed on how Yale-NUS will handle political expression that goes beyond what is permitted by Singaporean law, Lewis and University President Richard Levin were unwilling or unable to give clear answers.

    In a July 19 interview, Levin said he did not know whether Yale-NUS will be obligated to report any unregistered political parties or protests, or whether the college will allow Singaporean police on campus to break up protests or meetings of political parties.

    “I’d rather just have no comment on these things,” he said.

    Protests in Singapore are only allowed in Hong Lim Park’s Speakers’ Corner. While students at NUS may participate in established national parties, Singaporean law forbids them from forming political parties or campus chapters of national parties, akin to the Yale College Republicans or the Yale College Democrats.

    Lewis said in July that, to his knowledge, the college will not be obligated to report political parties or protests to Singaporean authorities. He said at the time that he will ultimately be responsible for developing Yale-NUS’s policies on student parties and protest, but declined to give details. Lewis said in July that the policies will become public by the time the college opens in fall 2013. Reached Thursday, he and Levin declined to comment on the policies until September.

    The Journal’s article prompted a wave of criticism. Human Rights Watch accused Yale of “betraying the spirit of the university as a center of open debate and protest,” and Chee Soon Juan, chairman of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, wrote to Lewis to express his “extreme dismay.”

    “They say, ‘You have total freedom to express yourself’ — and there’s a but in there — ‘but everything within the confines of what the Singapore government says,’ ” Chee told the News. “You can do anything within those confines, and therein lies the problem, because very soon you’ll find that circle getting smaller and smaller.”

    The Yale College faculty passed a resolution in April expressing concern over the historical “lack of respect for civil and political rights” in Singapore.

    -Tapley Stephenson

    PKU exchange ends

    Months after reaffirming its partnership with Peking University, Yale announced in July it was cancelling its program that sent undergraduates to live and study at the prestigious Chinese school.

    University President Richard Levin called the program a “great success” when Yale renewed the partnership in December, but said in July that it consistently failed to achieve “critical mass,” with only four students signed up for fall 2012. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said the program was not financially viable with such low enrollment.

    “Programs like this one depend on developing a successful constituency each and every year in order to make them work,” Miller said in a July 26 email. “A program where our staff, including Yale faculty members, who move to Beijing and take up residence for a semester or a year, exceeds the number of students, is not sustainable.”

    Yale-PKU was the only program that allowed students from other universities to live and study with students at PKU. Administrators expected the program to attract 15 students per semester when it was launched in 2006, but it averaged around 10, Levin said.

    Yale and PKU considered increasing enrollment by adding other American schools to the partnership, such as Brown University and Wellesley College, but Levin said they were unable to secure commitments from peer institutions.

    A July 24 email from a faculty member on the program’s advisory committee described the Yale-PKU language program as “notoriously weak,” causing many students to struggle with re-entering the Chinese language program at Yale.

    “I enjoyed my time [at PKU], but had difficulty coming back into the language classes at Yale because the PKU program had me studying out of a different book and taking language classes four days a week compared to Yale’s five,” Lucy Brady ’12 said.

    Yale and PKU students interviewed in July said they were surprised to hear the program had been shut down. The PKU students also said they were not informed of the program’s closure.

    “I think the change may interfere with Yale’s reputation here,” said Shiyao Liu, a PKU student who lived with Yale students in spring 2011. “Making promises and then, after several months, breaking them isn’t a very good action that a prestigious or top-tier American university should do.”

    PKU students can still take summer courses at Yale through a program established in 2005.

    -Tapley Stephenson

    Title IX inquiry concludes

    The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights completed its investigation into Yale’s sexual culture in June following a series of changes made by administrators to the University’s sexual misconduct policies.

    The 15-month investigation ended after Yale and OCR reached a “voluntary resolution agreement,” announced by OCR on June 15. Under the agreement, the University will continue to uphold its newly implemented grievance mechanisms, such as the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, and inform the community of available resources devoted to issues of sexual misconduct. Yale will not face any disciplinary action but will be required to report to OCR until May 31, 2014, according to Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education.

    Though the investigation did not find Yale in noncompliance with Title IX, it did conclude that the University had under-reported incidents of sexual misconduct “for a very long time” and kept inadequate and confusing records of sexual harassment and violence, Ali said.

    The investigation into Yale’s sexual climate began March 2011, just weeks after 16 students and alumni filed a complaint with OCR alleging that Yale had allowed a hostile sexual environment to persist on campus.

    Hannah Zeavin ’12 and Alexandra Brodsky ’12, two of the Title IX complainants, pointed out in June that while OCR did not find Yale in noncompliance, it also did not find Yale in compliance with Title IX regulations. Zeavin added that a June 15 letter from OCR to Yale administrators regarding the investigation demonstrated that Yale was “not necessarily within the bounds of Title IX law” before the investigation began.

    Still, complainants said in a June 15 statement that they were grateful for OCR’s investigation and plan to form a standing committee to oversee the University’s progress and serve as a “conduit of information” between Yale and OCR.

    -Gavan Gideon and Caroline Tan

    McMahon, Murphy to face off

    Former wrestling magnate Linda McMahon and current U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy will face each other this November in the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67.

    McMahon bested challenger Chris Shays by a 73 to 27 percent margin in the GOP primary, and Murphy led former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 by a moderately smaller margin of 68 to 32 percent for the Democratic nomination. The two have turned their attention to the November general election, in which polls show Murphy enjoying a substantial lead.

    “Chris Murphy won tonight, and he’ll win in November because people know he’s not like a lot of politicians in Washington,” Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said in a statement after results were released. “He spends his time working to advance the interests of the middle class, especially when it comes to job creation.”

    McMahon, who lost to Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 during the 2010 Senate election despite spending over $50 million of her own money, spent an additional $12 million in her primary campaign. She is expected to spend even more during the general election, a fact Murphy acknowledged in his victory speech.

    McMahon, meanwhile, characterized Murphy as a picture of Washington’s dysfunction in her victory speech after the primary.

    “He’s been there six years, and what do we have to show for it?” McMahon said. “More spending, more debt and higher unemployment.”

    But McMahon faces an uphill battle, as a July poll by Public Policy Polling gave Murphy a 50 to 42 percent lead over McMahon, substantially wider than a Quinnipiac poll conducted in May that gave Murphy only a three-point lead.

    The general election will take place on Nov. 6.

    -Nick Defiesta

    Sexual misconduct report released

    Forty-nine cases of sexual harassment, assault or other misconduct were brought to Yale officials between Jan. 1 and June 30, according to the University’s second semi-annual report compiling sexual misconduct complaints.

    As part of the University’s efforts to improve transparency, administrators began releasing semiannual reports last year that compile all sexual misconduct cases. The second such report contains the first instance of expulsion imposed by the newly created the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

    According to the report, the complaint that led to expulsion was filed on behalf of a female Yale College student and alleged that a male undergraduate with whom she had been in a relationship “committed acts of intimate partner violence.” The UWC, which was established last summer to streamline Yale’s sexual grievance procedures, found sufficient evidence to support the allegations and decided to expel the male student given his “prior history of similar conduct.”

    The punishment was the first instance in which any student had been expelled from Yale College since at least 1998, according to annual reports of the Executive Committee archived online.

    Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, who was appointed University Title IX Coordinator last November during the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ investigation into Yale’s sexual culture, said administrators will continue working to “clarify and communicate” the University’s sexual misconduct policies and see whether anything needs to be changed.

    “The goal is to be fair and consistent given the complexities of the case,” Spangler said in July about evaluating cases. “It’s not a formulaic process.”

    According to the University’s first semi-annual report, which was released in February, 52 cases of sexual misconduct were brought to officials between July 1 and Dec. 31 of 2011.

    -Gavan Gideon and Caroline Tan

    Path cleared for Downtown Crossing

    After more than five years of planning and review, the $135 million Downtown Crossing project, New Haven’s largest urban development effort in generations, received final legislative approval this month to move forward with construction.

    Downtown Crossing, the City’s plan to convert the eastern section of Route 34 from a limited access highway into a pair of pedestrian-scale city streets, was first revealed in 2007. The roadwork will reclaim reclaim 11 acres of land, officials said, and a 2.4 acre parcel of that space will be home to a new 10-story, 426,000-square-foot medical office tower.

    The project began a lengthy legislative review process last April, when the real estate developer, Carter Winstanley, formally submitted a 199-page proposal to the Board of Aldermen. After months of review and deliberation, the full Board voted unanimously to approve the project on Aug. 6, paving the way for Downtown Crossing to move forward into execution.

    “For half a century, the highway divided the city and served as a reminder of the homes and businesses that were lost,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said at a press conference on Aug. 7, referring to the destruction of the Oak Street neighborhood to make way for an extension of Route 34 under former Mayor Richard Lee in the 1950s. “No more. This January, work will finally begin to remove the highway and restore the street grid, employing thousands of people and propelling our local economy for decades to come.”

    The first phase of Downtown Crossing will focus on the project’s road construction work. Exits 2 and 3 of Route 34 will be closed, and the old Route 34 Connector at the North and South Frontage roads will be converted into an urban boulevard that officials hope will reconnect the Hill neighborhood with downtown. College Street will then be reconstructed at grade level.

    In the project’s second phase, the city will transfer the 2.4-acre land parcel Winstanley Enterprises, and Winstanley will develop the site into a medical sciences office tower at 100 College St. with ground level retail space.

    Gov. Dannel Malloy announced in June that multinational drug company Alexion Pharmaceuticals will relocate its headquarters to 100 College St. — becoming the central tenant of the new development. Alexion plans to move 350 of its current employees to New Haven and make an additional 200 to 300 new hires at the facility by 2017.

    -Ben Prawdzik

  8. Construction worker electrocuted at new college site

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    A construction worker at the site of Yale’s two new residential colleges was electrocuted and hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday, according to fire officials.

    The incident occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m Tuesday morning, when the worker, whose name and age have not been made public, was using a mechanical pump in an underground vault, the New Haven Independent reported. He was electrocuted when he touched a piece of the pump, Assistant Fire Chief Ralph Black said.

    Two other workers immediately ran out of the vault and dialed 911. Firemen arrived at the scene within three minutes of the call, and Black said said the injured worker did not have a pulse at the time.

    The fire crew resuscitated the worker using an automatic defibrillator and CPR, Black told the Independent. He was breathing as an ambulance transported him to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

    The worker is employed by Turner Construction Company, a multinational construction firm with over $8 billion in annual construction volume. Paul Huntley, Turner’s safety director, deferred comment to company spokesman Gregg Scholler. Scholler could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

    Turner has shut down the portion of the construction where the injured worker was shocked, and University and city officials were on the scene Tuesday investigating the incident.

    Yale spokeswoman Elizabeth Stauderman said the incident was being investigated by the New Haven Police Department, and that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had been notified. The University is cooperating fully, she said, and the construction schedule for the site has not changed.

    Mark D’Antonio, a spokesman for Yale-New Haven Hospital, said that because the injured worker’s name has not been made public, his condition could not be updated beyond what fire officials initially announced.

  9. Occupiers, robbed freshman chase drunk Yale men

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    In yet another sign of ever-improving town-gown relations, a Yale senior is charged with sixth-degree larceny after he and two other students drunkenly invaded Occupy New Haven, according to the New Haven Independent.

    Around 6:45 p.m., three Yalies who identified themselves as seniors on the football team visited Occupy New Haven’s encampment on the Upper Green, shouting “We are the one percent! F* Occupy!” before allegedly pushing over a 60-year-old protester and fleeing to Old Campus, according to one Occupier. Once they were on Old Campus, the trio allegedly pushed over a young woman and stole a trophy cup from a freshman male. They then ran toward Popeye’s on Dixwell Avenue while pursued by the freshman and members of Occupy New Haven.

    After the three Yalies ran inside a frat house on Goffe Street, the protesters called the police. Both Yale and New Haven police appeared, and one of the seniors received a summons for sixth-degree larceny after being identified by the freshman, whose trophy cup was returned.

  10. Dartmouth president picked to lead World Bank

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    Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim was named the twelfth President of the World Bank Monday afternoon, extending the Bank’s seven-decade tradition of tapping an American citizen to serve as its leader.

    Kim has served as President of Dartmouth College since July 2009. A physician with a doctorate in anthropology, Kim has focused his professional career on determining how to deliver expensive HIV and tuberculosis medicines to poor and remote parts of the world. Kim’s candidacy faced criticism because he does not have a background in finance or diplomacy. Bit the Obama administration defended the choice, saying that his development experience makes him a good fit for the office.

    Other nominees for World Bank president included Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo. Kim will assume his position in June, when current President Robert Zoellick finishes his five-year term.

  11. Archivist Judith Schiff named New Haven historian

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    Yale librarian Judith Schiff, known for her encyclopedic knowledge of the University’s history, will serve as New Haven’s next city historian, according to a Monday press release from City Hall.

    Schiff has worked as the chief research archivist at Yale University Library’s Manuscripts and Archives for four decades. She grew up in New Haven and attended Hillhouse High School, located where Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges now stand. She’ll serve as city historian until December 31, 2013.

    “I am deeply honored and wish to thank Mayor DeStefano and friends who supported me in achieving this recognition and look forward to contributing to the planning for the celebration of our city’s 375th birthday in 2013,” Schiff said in the press release.

    Schiff has previously worked with the Yale administration to celebrate events and anniversaries, like Elihu Yale’s 250th birthday and Noah Webster’s 250th birthday.

    She succeeds Richard Hegel, who served as the city’s first historian until his death in February.

  12. University, city announce annual Elm-Ivy Awards

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    President Richard Levin and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano presented the Yale University Seton Elm-Ivy Awards to seven individuals and two groups at a Tuesday ceremony.

    Elm-Ivy honorees are recognized for promoting collaboration between Yale and the city of New Haven. The award’s two designations — Elm and Ivy — honor different types of candidates: Elm Awards are granted to community members beyond Yale while Ivy Awards are given to Yale faculty, staff and students.

    This year, Elm Awards were given to Bruno Baggetta, marketing manager for Market New Haven, Nan Bartow, a retired board member of the Urban Resources Initiative, and Robert Smuts ‘01, chief administrative officer of the City of New Haven.

    Ivy Awards for the year went to James Boyle ’94, director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute; associate professors of physics Sarah Demers and Bonnie Fleming, for their work together in Girls Science Investigations; Gordon Geballe ’81, associate dean of alumni and external affairs, and lecturer in the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; Kurt Zilm, a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering; the Neighborhood Health Project Yale’s Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; and LaTisha Campbell ‘12, co-coordinator and treasurer of Dwight Hall’s Social Justice Network.