A great exodus is soon to take place, growing nearer and more portentous with each passing day. It will shake the foundations of social life, safety and cuisine. It has whipped many of my closest friends into a near-Chechnyan separatist fervor, driving the best of the masses into the streets of New Haven, pens and contracts at the ready, housing drama sparking, dividing and inflaming.
The off-campus migration is upon us — intent forms in some colleges were due today — and for me, a sophomore, it is a phenomenon altogether new.
On Old Campus, our freshman commune proved a happy-camp. Now, even divided into separate colleges, we’ve become dining-hall-and-common-room-jumping experts. But this harmonious social milieu will come under assault, as the off-campus revolt takes hold.
Friends, I understand the allure of off-campus life: the independence, the escape from an awkward dorm culture, the real-life simulacrum, the social capital, the culinary autonomy and most of all, the coalition of the willing, many of them hip as can be. But let this be my humble plea: stay. Please, don’t make a Robinson Crusoe out of me, leaving me marooned on a deserted on-campus island.
You have your whole life to live in an apartment. Why not live in a Gothic castle or Georgian colonial while you still can? I’ve seen enough off-campus hovels, unwashed and leaky, to truly appreciate the work of Yale’s cleaning staff. And trust me, the situation will only deteriorate coupled with that misplaced desire to “cook.” Level with me here: After a couple of weeks, with midterms and empty beer-cans piling up, will you find the time to keep the hotplate hot? The dining hall troughs — vegan notwithstanding — will smell better in direct proportion to the Cup Noodles consumption.
The huddled off-campus masses will then turn inexorably to the mainstays of Mamoun’s and Alpha Delta; food, hastily grabbed and eaten on the fly during a 25-minute walk to class, budgets waning, waistlines waxing. Your college’s convenient treadmills far away, will you really take your life into your hands by jogging in New Haven (outside the Yale green-zone)? I am not afraid to use scare tactics. It’s out of love.
I understand: You don’t like living in a dorm. But you can learn to love it! It has its charms, surely: approximate equanimity of living conditions, the entryway unity and basement passageways protected from the harsh winter cold, to name a few. I went to a boarding school, so perhaps I’m biased, but to me, the inconveniences of dorm-life furnished a sense of camaraderie, and even more importantly, a tolerance for the physical proximity of others. (For the many of you planning to move to Manhattan after graduation, this will prove an invaluable skill.) That whole “living with people with the same genitalia as you” getting you down? No problem! The seniors just got a gender-neutral option.
From long walks and Lysol to mold and Main Garden, the utilitarian reasons for remaining with me on-campus are many. But more meaningfully, there is a value to maintaining our Yalie solidarity — our shared communal sphere, built from chance interactions, common spaces and shared footpaths. The intense concentration of shared humanity that a college campus provides is uniquely unifying, providing us with context and grounding.
As we bustle about common spaces — beautiful, ancient ones at that — we find ourselves reenergized by one another. We orient ourselves through these spaces, from gyms and entryways to common rooms and libraries. It’s a pressure-cooker, sure, but one unlike any other we’ll ever experience. Lest we forget, we are still college students, and Yale is still a fairly luminous place. Let’s enjoy our castles while they last and leave the apartments for later.
Alex Klein is a sophomore in Davenport College.