With significant changes coming to graduate housing, many students are discussing the kinds of spaces that should be available for graduate students, on and off-campus.
The need for collaborative and social spaces has been the primary concern of graduate students since Provost Benjamin Polak announced the potential transformation of the Hall of Graduate Studies from a housing facility to a center for the humanities, composed of office and classroom spaces, on Jan. 15. Speaking through organizations like the Graduate Student Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and a housing committee, students have expressed their desire to have a center for student life that serves the same function as HGS.
“The major concern graduate students face as a result of the new HGS renovation announcement is graduate student life and community,” said GSA Chair Joori Park GRD ’17. “HGS isn’t just a building with department offices and rooms for graduate students to sleep. It is the place where graduate students build a community.”
To address these concerns, the University has promised to build such a space — though no concrete plans have been presented yet, GPSS President Gregg Castellucci GRD ’17 said.
University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, who meets with the GSA bi-weekly, said student input will be an essential part of the renovations and the construction of graduate apartments. Goff-Crews said that, for example, the decision to construct two-bedroom apartments with kitchens instead of traditional dormitories on Elm Street was in response to student interest.
GSA Steering Committee member Brian Dunican GRD ’15 said he feels that HGS is more than a simple dormitory — it served as a major center of programming, collaboration and student life, even for graduate students living off-campus. Despite the space’s importance to students, Dunican said he thinks that as long as an equivalent alternative space is provided, the renovations will not inconvenience graduate students.
“You can miss something that you had but not think that you’ve lost in the exchange,” said Dunican. “It’s our hope that when all is completed this will provide an improvement overall to the graduate student’s resources here on campus and preserve the sense of unified graduate student life.”
Some students said they are worried that the changes to graduate housing might be unnecessary.
Castellucci said that until now HGS has been a “home base” for graduate students and is valuable to them as a social and academic space. Gerardo Ruiz GRD ’17 said that while he thinks future students will benefit from the renovations and new apartments, there are already plenty of spaces for graduate students on campus, including Bass Library or various department lounges.
Furthermore, the administration is not only concerned with the needs of students living on campus, but is also making an effort to accommodate the 80 percent of graduate students living in off-campus housing. The Advisory Committee on Graduate and Professional Student Housing was first convened in 2013 as a response to both on- and off-campus graduate student housing concerns collected by GSA and GPSS.
This past semester, the housing committee worked to improve the conditions of off-campus housing. Part of this effort involved updating the landlord rating website, conducting a graduate survey on housing and hiring a caseworker to reduce landlord misconduct and protect tenants, Park said. Real estate research firm Reis Inc. recently found New Haven to have the lowest vacancy rate of 79 U.S. metropolitan areas with populations over 100,000. This makes graduate students susceptible to high rental rates, landlord abuse and poor living conditions.
“Ensuring that the University and local landlords are providing safe, affordable housing to graduate and professional students remains one of the committee’s central priorities,” Goff-Crews said.
Park said the graduate student survey on housing will provide feedback for the housing committee on what sort of amenities students want in the new apartments.
The GSA co-hosted a housing fair last spring for graduate and professional students. Yale Housing is sponsoring a second fair on Feb. 7.