When I first told some friends I was considering a move from Timothy Dwight to the new colleges, one of them gave me a stark rebuke: leave TD, and you’ll be stabbing Sasha Pup in the heart. In leaving, I’d be the sole director of a rusty sword straight into her fluffy, white chest. It would be a betrayal in the cruelest sense of the word. Brutus, Benedict, Burr and another unfavorable B word — would all be used to describe me.
“I hope you like seeing her mane dyed red,” the friend said.
Well, now that Sasha Pup is leaving TD for good, I have lost all qualms over my departure. In fact, this same friend came up to me this week: “now that Sasha is leaving, what point is there in staying?”
* * *
The newest additions to Yale’s residential college system in over 50 years have been met with much pomp and excitement.
At the construction groundbreaking two years ago, University President Peter Salovey proclaimed the new colleges as a future “teeming with life.” Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said, “We are in for something special when the doors to these colleges open!”
With Holloway’s “special day” just on the horizon, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges held their inaugural room draws last Friday. The event was packed with eager students ready to embark on a new chapter for themselves and for Yale. Among them, I felt a mixture of thrill and fear. I was leaving home for the second time in one school year. First, from the home of my parents, and now, from the home of Àshe, Red Lions and Sasha Pup — the home of Timothy Dwight. Could I dare to leave again?
Others, I quickly realized, had similar apprehensions. Some even skipped the room draw, allowing their inaction to act for them. For many, it seemed like an agonizing and difficult choice. Why then, did anyone do it? Why then, did students make that fateful foray into the unknown — into that uncertain land above the cemetery?
* * *
For Jordan Lampo ’20, it was spirit.
“My suite was upset with the lack of spirit in our original college,” she told me. “We decided that taking our energy and leadership abilities to become one of the founding members of Pauli Murray College would be so worth it, and would also fit us more as people.”
Lampo and her suitemates also celebrated the woman they’d have spirit for: Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray LAW ’65. Hailed by NPR as ‘The ‘Black, Queer, Feminist’ Legal Trailblazer You’ve Never Heard Of,’ Murray was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women, a famous civil rights activist and the first African-American to graduate from Yale with a doctorate in juridical science.
“It’s amazing to be a part of Pauli Murray out of the other 13 colleges; to be able to represent a woman’s college when, not even 50 years ago, women weren’t allowed at Yale? That’s why we’re so excited,” Lampo said.
Though Kelsey Kissane ’20 could not share in Lampo’s excitement (she was sorted into Ben Franklin), the name of her college did not discourage her. She had already decided to transfer with her closest friends into a sextet — which made her group much more likely to fall into Franklin.
“We didn’t really care about the names,” Kissane said. “It was more of a logistical choice than a very racy one.”
Max Sauberman ’18 is currently taking a gap year as a member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs. Even though his original class in Branford will be graduating this spring and leaving him behind, he has embraced the move to the new colleges as a chance to start something new.
“When presented with this incredible opportunity to create a new Yale community from scratch and to pioneer the inaugural Murray-Franklin year, I knew I had to seize it,” Sauberman said.
After her freshman year, Julie Luo ’19 felt she had lost the chance to branch out and make new friends — the new colleges offered her an opportunity to do just that.
TC Martin ’20 felt he had few loyalties to his current college and knew this year would be his best chance at starting fresh.
“If there were a time to try and experience a new community, this would be it,” Martin said.
There are a host of other reasons to transfer: Simon Mendelsohn ’20 wanted a single room, which he will get next year, as did Daniela Lee ’19, who also wanted proximity to Science Hill. Aaliyah Ibrahim ’19 and Akila Shanmugham ’20, meanwhile, both valued the meaning and historical significance of their decision.
“To me, both Pauli Murray and Ben Franklin represent the start of a new phase in Yale history,” Shanmugham said. “I want to be a part of the group that helps build this phase from the ground up.”
But even with all these reasons, many still struggled with their choice. One nervous student told me she was afraid to tell friends in her residential college of her move; she was worried of the embarrassment and the shame.
When her suitemates wanted to transfer, Renee Hernandez ’20 said that she was ultimately won over by new facilities, better rooms, and — most importantly — friendship.
“Initially, I was completely against moving to the new colleges,” Hernandez said. “I felt extreme loyalty to TD because it had provided me a home in a new, scary place … but I recently found that friendships have trumped this loyalty.”
I too have come to that conclusion — but it took much effort. In the weeks leading up to room draw, I remained deeply conflicted. Do I branch out? Or do I safely recede back into the branches of the Timothy Dwight gingko tree?
* * *
I came to my final conclusion a few nights before the room draw. I was taking the iconic TD freshman walk, from old campus back to our red-bricked home. I was thinking back to when I was first sorted into TD, many months ago. I remember hoping — intensely — not to fall into that one college, that one whose name evoked groans due to its distance and obscurity. I wanted centrality; I wanted Old Campus; I wanted the typical Yale freshman year — but it just wasn’t in the cards, and that’s okay.
Most TDers will say the same thing: the walk home is only as far as you make it out to be. I had fallen hard for a place I expected to despise because I had embraced the walk; I had embraced the atypical and the unfamiliar and the unknown. I had taken those steps away from the expected, and, in return, found community, friendship and love. I understood, then, that I had to keep going. I had to keep walking away from the expected. I knew I couldn’t stop, only until I passed those few blocks up Prospect Street.