For much of the outside world, New Haven is defined by Yale — the city is known primarily for its famed University. So it is hardly surprising that most Yale freshmen arrive on campus with little or no understanding of the community they will join for the next four years.

Students who venture out from Yale’s protected courtyards will experience a city with a dynamic identity of its own, intertwined with the University’s but also clearly distinct.

Like any modern urban area, New Haven faces problems that must be addressed. Though the city has made great strides in fighting crime and renewing decayed neighborhoods, further progress needs to be made in these and other areas.

But New Haven and its people should not be pitied any more than ignored. The city is a vibrant tapestry of contrasting cultures, neighborhoods and people. It mixes races, creeds and classes in a collage of urban, suburban and even rural areas. It is, in short, representative of American society.

In the last decade, Yale has learned that it cannot neglect the city; New Haven’s problems are Yale’s problems. The city and University have begun to work together to address their common concerns, and Yale students have become further involved in serving the community. The Class of 2005 has the opportunity to continue and expand this tradition of service.

We hope that you will work to better New Haven and that it will better you. In addition to being your home, New Haven can and should be an integral part of your Yale education.