You say tomato, I say “tomahto.” Where you see overcrowding and lack of home-cooking, I see lifelong dorm memories and a hot meal with no dishes to clean. Maybe that’s why you moved off campus and I hope to stay on for a fifth year.
As with so many other subject matters, Yale students’ enthusiasm for the lifestyle a residential college offers spans a broad spectrum. This semester, 690 students traded in their room numbers for street addresses, moving from Yale dormitories to off-cam
The reasons cited as motivations for moving off campus are as varied as the students themselves, with no one definite reason behind the majority of decisions.
“I moved off campus last year when I found out that [Timothy Dwight College] was going to be in Swing Space,” says Chandra King ’03. “Because our college has freshman in it, we would not have enough rooms to let all the juniors have doubles. Since I had shared the little rooms of TD for two years already I decided that I wanted my own space. And so I moved off.”
In addition to those evading Swing Space, students such as Britta Tracy ’02 and Mieyin Wang ’02 moved away from Davenport College to avoid cramped living conditions within the college, and more importantly the risk of being annexed.
“I’m in Davenport and the over-crowding concern was huge that year [two years ago],” Tracy said. “A large number of people decided to move off, and knowing that they were all leaving made it an easier decision to leave too.”
Though relative desirability of the housing available to a given Yale student is not the only important factor in decisions to move off, it is certainly an important one; the numbers of students per college currently living off campus correspond predictably with the campuswide opinions of those colleges. Where the notoriously cramped Davenport waved goodbye to 81 students this semester, newly renovated Branford College lost only 32. Further, Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske said that the number of students moving off campus is down from the 900s in the mid-90s, and said he estimates that the drop shows that students consider the benefits of living in a renovated college when making their decision.
Yet beyond the comparative advantages of different types of housing, the extracurriculars and lifestyles of particular students also play a role. Singers, such as members of The Baker’s Dozen, typically live off campus together junior year, and a handful of women in Yale’s sororities populate the Pi Phi apartment and Theta house each year. Additionally, a disproportionate number of theater people, art majors, film studies majors and athletes choose to reside outside of Yale dorms.
“While it wasn’t the only factor in my decision, being an athlete motivated my decision,” King said. “Because we have a large place, we are able to have team get-togethers and it is always nice to have some place to go. Another benefit is that when we come for preseason in the summer, we have a place where our teammates can stay and it’s fun for all of us to be together.”
Yet complaints about dormitory quality and the particulars of one’s extracurricular life fail to provide a profile of the typical Yalie living outside of dorms; differences between students who stay on campus and those who do not breaks down to a more basic division in Yale’s student body. Those students living “off” are at college for the academic gains, not the experience of the stereotypical collegiate social life.
“Living off campus, for me at least, is nice because it is like coming home,” King said. “It is a division between home life and student life. Sure I study at home, but I don’t feel submerged in academia. I can come home and truly relax.”
Most Yalies off campus reflect similar desires for independence, peace and quiet, and a generally more “adult” lifestyle than a college dorm allows.
“Its nice to have a place where we can bake cookies at 3 in the morning on a whim, and we can entertain people without making our beds. When it all comes down to it, I’m glad I moved,” Leslie Cozzi ’03 said.
Wang agreed. “It makes me feel all grown up,” she said.
Whatever the benefits of off campus life, the majority of the college community continues to want Yale to hold a prominent role in their lives during their college years.
“It’s the energy, the excitement, the fact that you’re next door neighbors are your own age and won’t make you turn down your music — usually,” Claire Kenny ’05 said. “Plus, Branford has been renovated.”
Tracy admitted that choosing to leave the nest of a residential college has had an impact on her Yale experience.
“It’s been interesting to watch how the dynamics change between the people who still live on campus.” she said. “I’ve had four deans and two masters since I’ve been at Yale and with all of the changing, I think the off campus people have been forgotten in the process. There hasn’t much of an attempt to include the off campus people by the administration. I also didn’t get to know the younger classes that well.”
It’s the fear of these consequences that makes the majority of Yale students willing to put up with minor inconveniences in return for a four-year experience that comes around once in a lifetime.
“Yeah, I would love to have a homemade dinner and a bubble bath every once in a while,” Francine Bourgeois ’05 said. “But I have the rest of my life to do that. I only have four years at Yale and I want to get as much Yale as I can during that time, even if it means putting up with some minor hassles. I’m not just here for classes. I’m here for college — communal bathrooms and all.”