Trumbull College sophomores got some bad news this week. At a housing meeting addressing 2006-07 living spaces, they learned that nearly half of them will not realize the dream of living in their newly renovated college next year. Due to space constraints, at least 45 students will have to live in Trumbull’s Old Campus annex space in McClellan Hall.
“I don’t think it’s a fair system,” Trumbull resident Jesse Harris ’08 said. “I don’t think it’s well organized.”
While Yale touts the uniqueness of its residential college experience, the nuances of annex housing are not emphasized in admissions pamphlets and on campus tours. Junior year, when students in many colleges are scattered to annex housing, can often become complicated and frustrating for both students and administrators. While perhaps a more pressing concern for current Trumbull sophomores than for most Yale students, annex housing is a matter of fairly widespread and constant contention on campus.
The number of annexed students varies by college and academic year, said John Meeske, Yale’s dean of administrative affairs. This year, Berkeley and Jonathan Edwards colleges — with 45 and 39 annexed juniors, respectively — have the largest annex populations, followed by Calhoun (30), Davenport (25), Saybrook (21), Branford (17) and Ezra Stiles (7), Meeske said. Juniors in Timothy Dwight, Morse and Davenport also live in out-of-college housing — for TD, Rosenfeld Hall; for Morse, row houses near Payne Whitney Gymnasium; for Davenport, Harrison Court — but Meeske said that these annexes, because they are near their respective colleges and are reserved exclusively for the college’s use, fall into a different category than Old Campus annexation. This year, Pierson and Silliman did not annex any students because there was space in the colleges, and Trumbull did not annex any students because of the greater capacity of Swing Space, Meeske said.
The only reason for the differences in the amount of students annexed per college, Meeske said, is the difference in the physical sizes of the college buildings. Jonathan Edwards and Trumbull, Yale’s smallest colleges, hold only about 200 students, whereas Pierson, the largest after Silliman, holds at least 300.
In the past, the administration dealt with discrepancies in the physical sizes of the colleges by purposefully creating discrepancies in the sizes of their populations, Meeske said. More freshmen, for example, would be assigned to Saybrook than to Calhoun. But in the past 20 years, the populations of the colleges have been gradually brought into line, Meeske said, and each college now houses between 400 and 450 students. As a result, more students are annexed in some colleges than in others. But this inequity is outweighed by the benefits of making the number of students in each college nearly equal, Meeske said.
But for many students in smaller colleges, the inconvenience of being annexed is significant. Students in Trumbull, like Harris, face a tricky situation. After living in Bingham Hall freshman year and Swing Space sophomore year, they would have to forgo a senior year off campus if they ever want to live in their college, Harris said. Harris said she thinks colleges going through renovations should revise their housing policies so that juniors have the option to live in their college.
“This isn’t your normal situation,” Harris said. “In general, if your sophomore year you’re living in Swing Space, you should not be annexed your junior year. It’s unfair.”
But Trumbull Dean Jasmina Besirevic said the housing reserved for sophomores in Trumbull is “very specific” and would not be appropriate for juniors.
“I know this is a hard reality for our rising juniors, but in fact, they will have better housing options in McClellan and Trumbull than the rising sophomores,” she wrote in an e-mail.
In many colleges, annexing can become a particularly delicate issue. Matt Blackshaw ’08, a member of Davenport’s housing committee, said he was told not to discuss housing issues with the press until all details were completely finalized.
Students said they are often frustrated by the delayed communication as to what their housing configurations will be and what their chances are of being annexed.
“The hardest part right now is that we don’t know enough to figure out what we need to do,” Sarah Yin ’08 said. “I wish the whole housing thing was more transparent. Right now they’re not telling us anything.”
Next year, annexed Davenport juniors will reside in Harrison Court on Park Street, a building the Yale College Dean’s Office recently rented from University Properties. The new annex building currently under construction on Elm Street will house Silliman students displaced from their college by renovations.
Because the new building is adjacent to Davenport, many Davenport sophomores said they are confused as to why they cannot move into the space next year.
“That’s basically Davenport,” Yin said. “Everyone’s pretty frustrated that it’s going to Silliman. Our class is missing out on that.”
But Meeske said that even after Silliman’s renovation is completed, the new space will not be solely a Davenport annex. Davenport students, he said, will probably get first crack at the rooms, but “the intention is not to reserve it for Davenport completely.”
Many annexed students complain that they miss out on in-college amenities like libraries, exercise rooms and dining halls. Arielle Haves ’07, who is annexed to McClellan from Davenport this year, said she often feels she is wasting the meal plan she is forced to buy.
“The opportunity to just pop into a dining hall for a meal isn’t as easy as if we were in a college,” she said.
Because Old Campus-area restaurants are more convenient than the dining hall, Haves said, she often ends up eating out for dinner, forgoing the meal plan she already paid for. Currently, annexed students must buy either the full 21 meals per week or the 14-meal plan plus flex dollars. Each of the plans costs more than $4,000 a year. Haves said she thinks annexed students should be allowed to buy no meal plan, a reduced meal plan or the meal plan given to students in Swing Space, which includes an extra $75 of flex.
Gastronomique, a gourmet take-out restaurant on High Street, offers students an alternative to the dining hall meal plan. For $350, students can buy 30 three-course dinners or lunches that they can pick up from the storefront at any time within a month. Marc Woll, the owner of the restaurant, said about 30 to 50 people currently take advantage of the plan, though not all of them are students.
Though students often take advantage of off-campus dining options, Meeske said the University is unlikely to change its policy on meal plans for annexed students. Allowing students who do not have a kitchen to pass up the meal plan would present too much of an invitation to break University rules forbidding microwaves, hot plates, and other appliances, Meeske said. Students who are annexed to campus housing with kitchens — like the row houses or apartments in Harrison Court — are not required to buy the meal plan.
“If we’re talking about annexes on Old Campus, that probably will never happen,” he said.
Annexed students also complain that they miss the familial environment of living in their college. Abbas Hussain ’07, who was annexed to Vanderbilt from Berkeley, said that while he generally does not mind living in an annex, he can see its disadvantages.
“To some extent, people who are living in Berkeley are more part of the community,” he said.
But Hussain said living on Old Campus can provide a community of its own. The energy of the newest Yalies can often be contagious, he said.
“I think freshmen are so exciting,” he said. “They’re always up to something. There’s always so much happening. By junior year you don’t have as much time to indulge in all of that.”
In fact, despite some disadvantages, many annexed students actually choose to live on Old Campus during their junior year. Meeske said that when he was a student in Jonathan Edwards College in the 1970s, his suite wanted to be annexed to Wright Hall — which later became Lanman Wright Hall — because they could have a bigger room with more singles. Meeske said he thinks many students make the same choice today, whether it is because rooms in their colleges are cramped or because they want to be further away from the supervision of college administrators.
Harris said that even though she would rather live in Trumbull, the rooms reserved for juniors in Trumbull have mostly doubles, so she will probably go for a room in McClellan.
Mark Godfrey ’08 said he is actually looking forward to the “very Yale-esque” living he expects to find in McClellan, especially after the “hotel-style living” he experienced in Swing Space. Being annexed, he said, is ultimately not that big of a deal.
“It’s just kind of the luck of the draw,” Godfrey said. “You can complain about it or you can just look forward to living with a group of friends in McClellan.”