Although I am not quite sure why, 12 is such a nice number. Perhaps that is why the idea of 12 residential colleges here at Yale feels so right; perhaps that is why saying, “14 residential colleges,” does not seem to have the same pleasant ring as “12 residential colleges.”
But whatever the case might be, Yale will no longer be a place of a dozen residential colleges beginning in August 2017. With the opening of two new residential colleges (which I hope will be named to reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our campus), Yale will undergo its largest transformation in decades; it is this transformation that we, students and stewards of our university, must embrace and shape.
Although the construction of new residential colleges poses serious concerns — about space and campus culture, amongst others — that we cannot be negligent about adequately addressing, we must not lose sight of the fundamental fact that two new residential colleges will greatly benefit Yale undergraduates.
The new residential colleges will make Yale more diverse and vibrant. With a larger student body, Yale will be able to absorb more students from more diverse backgrounds. Such diversity of experiences will not only make intellectual conversations in classrooms and in dining halls more stimulating, but will also allow for more robust and varied student organizations.
The new residential colleges will strengthen Yale’s community. By housing freshman within the two residential colleges, broader, intercollege communities will be established on campus as first-year students will have more incentive to interact with peers living outside Old Campus. For upperclassmen, the new residential colleges will eliminate or reduce the number of students forced into annexed housing; as a result, residential colleges will be more likely to retain and fortify their own communities.
The new residential colleges will make Yale more established. With more graduates, Yale’s alumni network will expand, thereby providing more career and post-graduation opportunities for undergraduates. Although there will be challenges at the Yale Office of Career Strategy — many of which unfortunately already exist today as a result of the poor restructuring efforts last year — a greater depth and breadth of alumni will allow for more mentorship of students and will attract more recruiters onto Yale’s campus.
The new residential colleges will strengthen Yale’s athletics. Whatever you believe about athletics at Yale, collegiate sports play an important role in American culture. With more students, Yale will have space to recruit more athletes, thereby strengthening our teams and improving Yale’s intercollegiate standings. Reflecting upon the recent success of Yale’s football and hockey programs, better, more victorious sports teams will also improve our campus community and help grow the sometimes lacking Yale spirit.
The new residential colleges will make Yale more accessible. With 15 percent more students, Yale will become available to more of those who seek it. Although some worry about the change in admissions acceptance rates, we must not be so selfish. As Yale consistently creates socially minded leaders, more Yale graduates will help make a better world — something that will benefit us all.
The new residential colleges will strengthen Yale’s financial standing. Although certainly not at the forefront of the average student’s mind, the establishment of new residential colleges will make Yale more financially solvent. With more students, not only will there be a larger number of students paying tuition, but there will also be a broader network of donors. Over time, Yale will be able to foster more relationships with friends, parents and alumni to strengthen financial aid, fellowships and professorships.
Although I certainly paint a rosy picture of a larger Yale, I would be remiss if I did not mention the pains that growth will impose on our community and on our campus. After 2017, students, faculty and administrators alike will all surely experience significant challenges. Whether regarding increased demand for services (including shuttle buses and Yale Health, just to name a few) or increased use of Yale’s historic facilities (by both classes and student organizations), we must anticipate and address the upcoming changes to campus life.
It is with regard for these issues that us students must play a larger role. The Yale College Council, specifically, must be a better advocate for students; it must work with students and administrators to understand where potential problems will occur, and it must propose solutions that will further the interests of students.
Inevitably, two new residential colleges will be built; we should, therefore, embrace them as we welcome our freshmen each fall: with open minds, open hearts and open arms.
Ben Ackerman is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. Contact him at email@example.com.