Bucking University tradition, Yale’s newest residential colleges could be named after the donors who underwrite their construction.

In a Monday evening meeting in New York City with about 150 of Yale’s most generous benefactors — specifically convened to brief them on the possibility of new residential colleges — Yale officials discussed ideas that they have never delved into publicly, including naming the new colleges after large donors and converting the Old Campus into residential colleges, several people who attended the meeting said.

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The Yale Corporation will make the ultimate decision on whether to name new colleges after donors, University President Richard Levin said Tuesday, and each of the new colleges will likely cost between $200 million and $250 million to construct. If a building is to be named after a donor, he said, the donor will have contributed 50 percent or more of the cost of its construction, so naming rights for one of the new residential colleges would likely cost in excess of $100 million. None of the current 12 residential colleges is named after the person who donated the majority of the funds to construct it.

Yale Tomorrow Executive Committee member Bill Wright ’82, who attended Monday’s meeting, said the overall response to expansion was enthusiastic but that many donors were adamant that colleges should not be named after the people who donate the funds to construct them.

“We all know there is a long tradition at Yale of not naming colleges after the donors, but naming them after great, heroic people who are part of the Yale community,” Wright said. “There are many great Yale men and women who have gone before us who could have a college named after them.”

While Levin has brought up the expansion in previous informal discussions with donors, this more formal meeting could mark the next step in the process toward constructing the new colleges. Levin and other administrators have said the expansion is by no means certain and depends on the findings of committees currently evaluating the impact new colleges would have on academics and student life at Yale. But one donor in attendance, who wished to remain anonymous, said administrators conducted the meeting as if the construction of the colleges was a certainty.

Levin said this meeting’s only purpose was to inform the donors about the plans under consideration and to listen to questions and comments.

“I explained that there were multiple constituencies interested here, but the views of the faculty and students were going to be taken into account through this committee process,” he said. “We have these committees under way, and I am eager to hear their recommendations.”

Levin said in January that the final decision to construct the colleges will be made by the Corporation by December 2007. The two faculty and staff committees will present their reports to Levin and the Corporation in the fall.

One donor present at the meeting said the discussion at one point turned to the possibility of constructing four new residential colleges instead of two, a plan Levin said is not currently under consideration.

The proposal to make Old Campus into two colleges first came up during a meeting with the Council of Masters, Levin said, and it is not being seriously considered at the moment.

After remarks by Levin and Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, the assembly of donors split into smaller groups of 10 to 15 to discuss the different aspects of expansion. All of the donors present at the meeting are members of the Yale Tomorrow fundraising campaign committee, Levin said.