Future students in the two new residential colleges will never experience the pains or pleasures of living with a roommate — all bedrooms in the colleges will be singles.
The new colleges, which are scheduled to be completed in 2015, will house students for all four years in suites consisting of singles and a common room. Administrators said they feel students prefer this arrangement since it combines the privacy of single rooms with the social experience of suite-style living, and they added that it will provide flexibility for summer programs. While a few students interviewed worried that students would miss the valuable experience of having a roommate, a majority said the setup would enhance students’ living situations.
“The feeling was that this is what students most wanted,” said John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources. “As we renovated the 12 colleges, this is what we heard over and over.”
Yale spokesman Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said the University drew on decades of experience with the residential college system to ensure that the new layout “incorporates the best aspects of history.”
School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern ARC ’65, whose firm is designing the new colleges, said when Yale first built residential colleges, all student rooms were singles. Only after World War II, when the University saw an influx of students returning from the war and faced a shortage of rooms, did living with a roommate become common.
“These [new] colleges are being conceived of in the way the original colleges were being conceived of, which is that each person has his own private bedroom for study and sleep, and then a social space shared with others,” Stern said.
When Ezra Stiles and Morse Colleges were built in 1961, undergraduates were in favor of single rooms because they were “sick and tired” of crowded doubles, Stern said. But the layout of those colleges turned out to be a “disaster” because the singles stood alone rather than being connected to common rooms, he said. In response to students’ concerns, Stiles and Morse added more suites during their recent renovations.
The addition of singles, as well the fact they will be air-conditioned, will also help the University house participants in summer programs, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said. Stern added that the buildings will be air-conditioned only during the summer and not during the school year.
Pamela Schirmeister, an associate dean of Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said having air-conditioned singles would allow the University to more easily expand its alumni programs, such as the new Yale for Life continuing education program launched last summer.
Three out of six freshman counselors interviewed said they thought having singles will make the transition to college life less stressful for freshmen. Issues like cleanliness, room visitors and conflicting sleep schedules create less tension among suitemates than they do among roommates, they said.
Chelsea Cole ’12, a freshman counselor in Ezra Stiles College, said placing students in singles within suites “balances the needs” of personal and social space.
Still, three of the 17 students interviewed said they were concerned that living in a single for four years might deprive students of the learning experience of sharing a room.
“Learning to live with someone else regardless of your differences, like political or religious beliefs, is a life skill that everyone should have,” said Jose Martinez ’12, a freshman counselor in Trumbull College.
Two students interviewed expressed concerns over the fact that students in the new colleges, like those in Silliman and Timothy Dwight, will not be able to live with the rest of the freshman class on Old Campus.
Martinez said Old Campus is the “center of gravity” for freshmen, and the separation might “dilute the Yale experience.”
Meeske said the issue of whether to have freshmen in the new colleges live on Old Campus was one of the “biggest questions” administrators grappled with when planning the new colleges. But because Yale does not have space to house additional freshmen on Old Campus without scattering students from the same colleges among different buildings, administrators decided to house freshmen in the new colleges, he said.
The two new residential colleges will be built near Yale Health, on the north side of the Grove Street Cemetery, between Prospect, Canal and Sachem streets.
Natasha Thondavadi and Madeline McMahon contributed reporting.