We’ll be gone from Yale by the time the new residential colleges open in 2017.
As painful as this is to admit, that fact comes as a relief. We are unanimous in the belief that, as long as other facilities do not expand, a 14-college Yale is less desirable than a 12-college Yale. Because 800 new students won’t just populate the half-dozen acres between the Grove Street Cemetery and Ingalls Rink. They’ll also frequent WLH, the CEID, the Music Library and Payne Whitney — if they can find room.
Yale College is crowded. We’ve searched unsuccessfully for library space. We’ve accepted that showing up to Bass doesn’t guarantee us a place to study. We’ve sat on the floor of over-subscribed lectures.
We have grave concerns about the expansion in store for the college. We’re worried about what campus will feel like for future students, who will compete with 15 percent more people for already-limited treadmills in Payne Whitney and coveted seats around seminar tables.
In a guest column for the News (“The work before us,” Aug. 27), Dean Jonathan Holloway wrote: “With the University set to break ground this year on two new residential colleges and Yale College set to expand by roughly 800 students, the warp and woof of what makes Yale so special must be carefully examined…”
The most significant project Yale has undertaken since coeducation, this expansion calls for self-reflection. But Holloway has shown indications that he is not always attentive to the stresses and strains of life in the college. Proof lies in his blithe assertion that shortening reading period is “pretty low-risk,” despite near-unanimous student disagreement.
In 2008, the Study Group to Consider New Residential Colleges — of which Holloway was a member — released a report whose central thesis was that Yale would have to do extensive additional construction to accommodate outsized undergraduate enrollment. Drafted by two committees of faculty, staff and students, the report recommended more than a dozen concrete steps, including the following additions to the University’s physical resources:
1. A “much-needed” lecture hall, capable of seating 200 people
2. A theater and dance space
3. Mid-sized classroom spaces that can double as spots for rehearsals and student meetings
4. An additional fitness center near Science Hill
These recommendations have given way to administrators’ suggestions that it won’t be possible to pursue additional capital projects given the University’s financial straits. The question then is: Why expand now, and why so rapidly?
When asked, some professors expressed doubts that their already-packed lectures could handle a 15 percent spike in enrollment.
“It seems to me that if Yale is going to recruit 15 percent more students, it should not be relying, for their instruction, on existing levels of faculty or facilities,” said John Gaddis, who teaches the blockbuster Cold War lecture in SSS 114. “Building new colleges while neglecting these basics compromises Yale’s teaching mission, which is why we’re all here.”
But the University has given every indication that this is exactly what it plans to do. In forums hosted last semester by the Yale College Council, in which Holloway and other administrators spoke, students raised concerns about enrollment in large lectures. Among the solutions Provost Benjamin Polak suggested was moving these classes to 9 a.m., thereby curbing enrollment.
Talk about compromising Yale’s teaching mission — about artificially moving Yale courses around the supply and demand curve, which is Polak’s propensity as a scholar of economics.
Holloway, a humanist by discipline, should know better.
If the College is not to suffer as a result of this expansion, the University’s physical plant needs several upgrades. The 2008 study group made this clear, and anyone who spends time in Yale’s shared facilities understands that this campus cannot accommodate an additional 800 students.
It is Holloway’s chief duty to ensure academics and student life don’t get lost in this full-speed-ahead, no-questions-asked approach to expansion. He should publicly acknowledge Yale’s need for these facilities and advocate for their creation. To do otherwise would be to put at risk the treasure of being a student at Yale College.