The opportunity to create housing groups with peers from other colleges allowed students to transfer to Yale’s two new residential colleges in groups formed on the foundation of shared backgrounds or extracurricular commitments.
According to Head of Benjamin Franklin College Charles Bailyn, the Prospect Street facilities will house some suites consisting primarily of international students, as well as some that are disproportionately inhabited by athletes or members of singing groups. He added that although he has no data on the diversity of those who transferred to the new colleges, since that was not tracked, it is his impression that Benjamin Franklin and Murray are “well above” the Yale average in terms of number of international student members and perhaps in other kinds of diversity, including intellectual, extracurricular and ethnic, as well. Still, Head of Pauli Murray College Tina Lu said that while rooming groups may tend to reflect shared interest, the student population as a whole is very diverse.
“People with strong interests and strong friendship groups that cross colleges have been particularly interested to move into the new colleges,” Bailyn said. “Particularly in the case of international students. … This is an opportunity for them to live with the people who have become their friends, even if they started out in other colleges.”
The transfer process to the new colleges concluded earlier this month with the last room draw on March 6. Students who applied to transfer were randomly placed in either Murray or Benjamin Franklin, but they were permitted to apply in groups with peers from across any of the existing colleges. In a January email to the News, Dean of Benjamin Franklin College Jessie Hill said honoring requests for friends to remain together was one of administrators’ main objectives when distributing students between Murray and Franklin.
Fallon Sheridan ’19, a member of the Yale women’s soccer team, transferred to Murray along with two of her teammates and two students on the women’s softball team. Sheridan and one of the students who transferred with her currently live in Silliman College, while the remaining three are in Morse.
“As an athlete, the new colleges do provide easy access to the gym, and provide an opportunity to live with other athletes who are on a similar schedule — something I found difficult to coordinate in my current college,” Sheridan said. “The new colleges will promote diversity, while allowing me to conveniently live with people with synchronized schedules.”
And Yondeen Sherpa ’18, a junior from Nepal who currently lives off campus and will serve as a Freshman Counselor in Murray, said she is transferring with a “big group of international friends.”
Lu said that she is happy students in the new colleges will live with their friends and people they care about. But Bailyn noted that while this could be positive, it could also be detrimental if students only fraternized with the students they transferred with.
“If people have moved in with very close friendship groups and if they spend all their time turned inward to each other, then that’s probably not a very good thing as it pushes against the reason for the existence of the residential colleges in the first place,” Bailyn said.
On the other hand, Bailyn said, the new colleges have different kinds of groupings and if groups were to “look outward” and interact with each other, the arrangement would work well.
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the University initially wrestled with how to open up the lotteries and control the transfer process so as to ensure a diverse student population in the new colleges. Although college administrators sought to achieve a rough gender balance in Murray and Benjamin Franklin, controlling for factors as numerous and varied as race, ethnic identity, citizenship, extracurricular engagement and major of study was impossible, he added.
“The question of what are the things you control for became a statement of what are the things you declare as important in establishing a diverse community, and you can’t sort that out without it blowing up in your face and doing violence to the entire idea of what residential colleges aim to be,” Holloway said.
Consequently, Holloway said, University administrators decided to just “open the doors” during the transfer process, even though they knew that this may lead to an international student cohort or athlete cohort. However, Holloway noted that any imbalance in the diversity of the student body would likely even out in a few months once the class of 2021 arrives and sort itself out within the next couple of years.
Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges will increase enrollment in Yale College by 800 students over the next four years.