Although there are no plans set in stone to build new common spaces on campus, administrators say they may consider it.
With the opening of two new residential colleges two-and-a-half years away, administrators remain non-committal on whether there will be more common spaces to accommodate the influx of approximately 800 additional students to Yale College. In recent months, students and faculty from across the University have expressed concern regarding the potential strain on these common facilities, specifically overcrowding in theaters, libraries, lecture halls and gyms. Although it appears unlikely that all recommendations issued in a 2008 report on the new residential colleges — which advised the Yale Corporation on the implications of the college expansion project — will be enacted, Provost Benjamin Polak said the most likely common space to be built would be additional study space.
“It would be nice to create more common spaces,” Polak said. “Among the things we are looking at is to be able to create a safe 24-hour study space, and that one we are a bit further on.”
Polak added that, with or without the new colleges, there is a widespread view that having more on-campus places for studying and hosting events at night would make Yale’s campus safer. Administrators are considering locations that are close to central campus, and Polak added that this type of space would aim to serve both undergraduate and graduate students.
However, he cautioned that discussions remain in the early stages.
University President Peter Salovey said that though he has not yet heard about suggested locations to create the study space, administrators are exploring how quickly this type of project could be implemented.
Further, financial constraints may be the largest obstacle preventing the University from moving forward on such a project, Polak said.
“Every year, we look at the demands on our capital budget and they exceed what we currently have,” he said. “There are many, many things we would like to do not in the capital budget, but some things are already in the capital budget already: Yale Biology building, Hendrie Hall, the renovation of the Beinecke and the new colleges.”
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the administration is also considering the establishment of additional performance spaces. The 2008 report recommended that the University add a theater space for 250 people, resembling the Off Broadway Theater.
The report, Holloway added, should be considered as a set of guidelines that has spurred a careful study of spatial needs and campus usage — not a blueprint.
Holloway said he believes the capacity of current educational spaces on campus will be sufficient for the influx of students.
“What we know is that we can accommodate the great majority of teaching [and] classroom needs with the spaces that we currently have,” Holloway said. “They simply need to be better deployed — this means using more of the five-day-week calendar.”
However, students remained largely unconvinced that University’s current facilities would be able to accommodate hundreds of new bodies on campus.
Of the 14 students interviewed, 10 expressed concerns that the increase of student body may cause overcrowding in common spaces on campus. Further, eight students said that although they support the growth of student body, common student spaces are already limited on campus at its current size.
“The student body needs a space for all students to study and meet, because the current facilities aren’t convenient,” Steven Roets ’17 said. “The administration should consider the consequences [when adding students] and how to keep the quality of academics and social life the same on campus for all students.”
Titania Nguyen ’18 said she felt one area of particular scarcity was in the libraries. Study spaces like Bass Library in particular, she said, need to be made bigger and more accessible.
Samantha Fry ’15 said she felt the potential cost of overcrowding is far outweighed by the benefits of a larger student body.
“I think spaces may be more crowded, but it is definitely worth it to give access to more students,” she said.
Cayla Broton ’16 said she is not too concerned about the need to increase common facilities, adding that she thinks there are actually many unused study and recreational spaces.
The groundbreaking on the two new residential colleges is slated for February 2015.