As the year winds to a close, students are reminded of two things: First, beautiful weather and final exams don’t belong together. And second, the familiar spring headache of packing up and moving out is just around the corner.
Unfortunately, a new policy created by the Council of Masters will make this annual headache even more painful than usual. Earlier this week, the council issued an edict allowing students to leave no more than six small boxes in basement storage and a few pieces of furniture in their rooms. Refrigerators — long a staple of many undergraduates’ rooms — will no longer be permitted in storage anywhere.
The council cited as its reasons a decrease in storage space in the renovated colleges, “exponentially” increasing student possessions, a rise in theft, and problems with the fire code. While the council clearly feels there is a need for change — and may well be correct — its solution to these problems is absurd for a variety of reasons.
Adopting an across-the-board policy is a poor way of dealing with storage constraints at Yale. One-size-fits-all policies work well for some things, but storage is not one of them. The residential college system is based on each college’s being unique and distinct, all varying from one another in a wide range of areas — including size. For this reason, the council should refrain from imposing a needlessly uniform standard.
For example, if Saybrook College Master Mary Miller, presiding over a newly renovated college, decides it is necessary to impose storage limits on her students, she should — and does — have that authority. But the council should encourage Miller and her 11 colleagues to re-evaluate storage on an individual basis, allowing each master to tailor policies appropriately.
It is also clear that the council’s timing was ill-considered. In its e-mail to undergraduates, the council said it hopes that students will handle the new rules by planning better in the future. That is a fair expectation, but it is ridiculous to demand that students revise their storage plans with only five weeks remaining in the term. Many students may be forced to ship their belongings back home or rent storage space, costly processes that could particularly hurt low-income and international students.
Finally, it is perhaps most disturbing that the council failed to solicit advice about its decision from the students themselves: This is precisely the kind of policy that would benefit from their input. In the coming year, each master and college council should conduct a survey to gather feedback on each college’s storage system. Only after receiving such input should individual masters institute permanent changes in their policies.
On Wednesday, Yale College Council President Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03 sent a letter to the Council of Masters, as well as to several top University administrators, outlining many of the arguments made above. The letter urges the council to postpone changes until next year and to allow masters to limit student storage within their colleges as they see fit. Drafted on behalf of the students’ elected representatives, the letter likely commands the support of the vast majority of the student body.
The Council of Masters should accept its recommendations.