At the start of every fall semester, thousands of Yale College students converge on Payne Whitney Gymnasium in search of new and exciting extracurricular activities. Starting in the fall of 2017, those thousands will be joined by an additional 200 students annually after the opening of Yale’s two new residential colleges, making it more difficult for students to find membership opportunities and funding.
Currently, Yale has over 500 registered undergraduate student organizations. While some organizations are open to all undergraduates, others require students to undergo tough selection processes before joining. With the size of the student body set to significantly increase in the coming years, student organization leaders are considering how the uptick might affect the competitiveness of their organizations as well as the amount of funding and resources they receive from the University.
Yale UNICEF President Neha Anand ’17 said the increase in students at Yale will likely lead to an increase in students who want to get involved in Yale UNICEF, which may necessitate an expansion of the organization’s budget.
“I am sure that the new residential colleges will bring many more people interested in Yale UNICEF’s work and who want to get deeply involved,” Anand said. “However, if more people become involved in Yale UNICEF, we will probably host more events, and in this way our budgetary needs will increase.”
Most student organizations, including UNICEF, rely on funding from the Undergraduate Organizations Committee. As the policy currently stands, groups are eligible for up to $400 per semester for administrative expenses. According to the UOC’s website, the UOC’s total operating budget is roughly $205,000 per annum and comprises funding from the Yale College Dean’s Office, the President’s Office and from the Student Activities Fee, which is $75 annually for all students.
Aparna Nathan ’17, UOC director and a former production and design editor for the News, said that although not all groups apply for the maximum amount of funding, group needs often exceed $400.
“As the groups’ sizes increase, their need for administrative funding will increase as well, and there will probably be new groups too,” Nathan said. “The increase in [the UOC’s] budget will need to be able to accommodate this growing need so that these groups can successfully serve an even larger Yale community.”
Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway, who is part of a working group for the new colleges, said he imagines there will be an increased demand for the creation of new student organizations simply because there will ultimately be 15 percent more undergraduates. He added that it is “possible” that the budget for funding for student organizations might increase given the strong potential that most organizations will increase in size as well.
Eugene Lim ’18, treasurer of Yale Outdoors — one of Yale’s largest student organizations, with around 200 new members each year — said his group expects greater costs and more widespread participation with the introduction of the new colleges.
“Yale Outdoors will have to find a way to put out a more accessible set of trips with less capital,” Lim said. “For example, many of our trips are limited by a lack of cars, which is unlikely to improve due to the high cost of buying and maintaining cars. A larger membership will only increase the strain on this limitation. As such, we may have to put out walking-distance trips or day hikes if we are to reach out to a larger population.”
Still, other student organizations called to attention other areas in which they may need additional University support with an increased undergraduate pool.
Russell Cohen ’17, president of undergraduate film-production house Bulldog Productions, said the availability of film equipment already concerns his group and could become increasingly problematic. It can be difficult to reserve items for a given weekend due to the number of people who want to use them, Cohen said.
“Resources are spread pretty thin and an increase in students will augment the problem,” Cohen said. “An investment by the University in cameras, sound kits and other gear would be greatly beneficial for filmmakers on campus, since, without them, there’s not much we can do.”
Reserving classrooms and meeting spaces might also be an issue for student organizations, President of Splash at Yale Rachel Lawrence ’16 said. She noted that the new colleges could potentially have spaces organizations can use, though the student body increase may still exceed that of the addition of physical meeting rooms.
Still, Lawrence said her group could still benefit from Yale College’s expansion.
“We are constantly in the process of trying to recruit enough teachers to satisfy the growing demand from middle and high school students for Splash classes, and the number of Yalies who decide to teach is our limiting factor in how many of those students can attend,” Lawrence said. “A larger student body could definitely help.”
The average student activities fee across the Ivy League is $159.57.