From afternoon frisbee scrimmages on its lawns to late night conversations atop its bunk beds, Old Campus provides the perfect setting for the boundless energy, curiosity and anxiety of Yale’s freshmen. Unlike many of its Ivy League counterparts, the University manages to maintain the precarious balance between fostering vibrant residential colleges on the one hand while developing a thriving freshman community on the other.
And as the hallmark of that dualism, the Old Campus experience must be preserved as much as possible.
Next year’s renovations of Vanderbilt Hall will leave Old Campus lacking living space for about 300 students. Last year, the University Housing Council decided to assign freshmen in Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges to Swing Space, arguing that the building’s proximity to the two colleges and Swing Space’s living arrangements — which resemble Old Campus common rooms more so than Morse and Stiles’ isolated singles and doubles — made it the most logical choice to house traditional Old Campus dwellers.
But even with the removal of Morse and Stiles freshmen, over 50 housing slots that used to be filled on Old Campus are unaccounted for. Administrators have two choices: either they can move another full college’s worth of freshmen from Old Campus to the pseudo-apartment complex or they can annex upperclassmen from one or more colleges to Swing Space.
Both options contain drawbacks and compromise the successful living arrangements that have evolved at Yale over numerous decades. But at this juncture, respect for Yale’s longstanding tradition of keeping as many freshmen as possible on Old Campus must prevail.
Any Morse and Stiles upperclassmen who would otherwise be annexed to Old Campus must naturally accompany the exodus of their colleges’ freshmen. Interaction between the college’s upperclassmen and freshmen would promote a unified atmosphere similar to that found annually at Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges.
But a move from Old Campus would not similarly benefit freshmen from other colleges. It would fail to offer them closer proximity to their respective colleges, and it would do nothing to promote a greater sense of unity within their college. These freshmen would be isolated from the invaluable freshman community of Old Campus while receiving no immediately recognizable advantages.
On the other hand, some upperclassmen, having already experienced Old Campus, would be willing to move away from their colleges for the luxuries of Swing Space — including kitchens, larger rooms and proximity to the gym.
Choosing which remaining upperclassmen — beyond Morse and Stiles — should be annexed to Swing Space will require extensive research and consultation not only with faculty and administrators, but with students as well.
But no matter which additional group of upperclassmen Yale assigns to Swing Space, the University should ensure above all else that no more freshmen are moved off Old Campus.