Growing increasingly frustrated with the difficulty of reserving University space for debates and other meetings, members of the Yale Political Union gathered Friday afternoon to discuss the possible acquisition and renovation of a building for the Union within the next few years.
Although the club already has office space at 305 Crown St., a building home to a handful of undergraduate organizations, YPU members convened Friday’s meeting — the second they have held this semester — because of complaints about lack of space.
The seven individual parties that comprise the YPU have had a particularly hard time finding places to host their individual weekly, said Paul Selker ’08, a former chairman of the Party of the Left who has been heavily involved in the search for a building. Residential-college administrators are protective of many potential meeting spaces, he said.
“The Union and its parties go through hell to find rooms,” Selker said. “With the colleges being renovated, masters and deans treat their shiny new rooms like parts of their medieval fiefdoms and make it very hard for pan-college organizations to reserve them.”
Former YPU President Roger Low ’07 said he supports the idea of purchasing a building, which he thinks would ease the administrative and logistical strain on the officers who are responsible for scheduling debates.
“I think it would be absolutely terrific if the YPU had a space that was unique that it had a lot of autonomy over,” he said. “I think the main culture shift is that it might help the YPU become more an established presence on campus.”
Among the issues Union members and officers discussed Friday were whether the building should be rented or purchased, whether it should be used exclusively by the YPU or be available to other political organizations and how the building should be maintained.
Based on informal straw-poll votes at the meeting, those present favored purchasing or renting a building close to central campus, with debating chambers for Union and party debates and regular cleaning services. They also agreed the building should be controlled by the YPU alone, although non-YPU organizations such as the Young Democrats or STAND could be granted access.
An online survey of 66 Union members taken this semester revealed similar sentiments. A plurality of participants said they would prefer a building located on Chapel, Crown or Temple streets.
YPU officers have inspected several buildings since the initial meeting in February and have identified three or four likely candidates, said April Lawson ’09, a member of the YPU’s advisory committee and its past president. One of the most attractive options is a 14,000-square-foot building behind Book Trader at the corner of Chapel and York streets that costs $300,000, Lawson said.
Several Union members interviewed said they hope the organization’s 75th anniversary, upcoming next year, will put alumni in the mood to donate money toward the new building. Many former members have already voiced their support, said Carmen Lee ’09, who is heading up the efforts to acquire a building.
“The Union’s endowment is not currently sufficient to finance the project by itself, but if we were to proceed, we would do so in coordination with an alumni capital campaign,” Lee said.
That campaign would likely raise several million dollars, YPU officers said.
The Union formerly occupied the building, which now houses the Afro-American Cultural Center, until the University reappropriated it in the late 1960s.