The opening of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges this fall is certain to change campus life. But it may also change city politics, transforming a ward that contains more permanent city residents than Yale students into one that is split almost evenly between them.
The influx of about 600 eligible voters to the area could make Yale students the voting majority in Ward 22, which spans Dixwell Avenue to Whitney Avenue and already counts students in Ezra Stiles, Morse, Timothy Dwight and Silliman among its 3,000 voters. The opening of the colleges could also give student candidates an advantage in future elections, as students would have an easier time connecting to voters on campus.
Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said she was not concerned about the threat of more competition from Yale students. But she said she feared student alders would have a difficult time responding to the needs of the ward’s non-Yale residents, explaining that as a college graduate and a lifetime resident of the city, she understands the needs of all of her ward’s constituents.
But students, few of whom have lived in the city for more than a few years, might find it challenging to work effectively for permanent residents, she said.
If Yale students do start running in Ward 22 and winning, politics in the ward might begin to mirror those of Ward 1 — the only ward in which Yale students are the majority of voters. Historically, almost all Ward 1 alders have been either current or former Yale students. Few alders serve more than two terms in office as they move out of New Haven to pursue jobs or graduate degrees.
As of now, it is not clear whether any student candidates will challenge Morrison. Yale College Democrats Communications Director Keera Annamaneni ’20 said her organization was unaware of any potential student candidates.
And Ward 22 Co-Chair Gabrielle Diaz ’18 said she doubts a student will run for the Ward 22 seat. She explained that if one did, he or she would receive backlash from Dixwell residents and Yale students because he or she would not know the community’s needs. But she did not rule a student campaign out.
“I don’t think that it’s completely out of the picture that a student campaign could happen,” Diaz said. “I don’t think the campaign would be successful, but I don’t want it to happen.”
Morrison has won three aldermanic elections since 2011. She said a Yale student has never run against her.
Though the ward actually contains fewer Yale students than Dixwell residents, Diaz said Morrison uses the idea of a 50-50 split between Dixwell residents and Yale students to view the ward as one community.
Fish Stark ’17, a 2015 Democratic candidate for Ward 1, said students will likely remain cognizant of the Ward 22 alder’s role to serve the entire ward once new students move into the colleges.
“I think it makes intrinsic sense to most people that the Ward 22 alder should be someone with deep knowledge of the community,” said Stark, a staff columnist for the News.
As the 2017 Board of Alders election approaches, politicians also wonder what the new colleges could mean for ward redistricting, which will take place in 2022 after the 2020 census. Ward 22 almost surely will have to be redrawn, given that each ward is meant to contain roughly the same number of residents.
Stark said he could envision Ward 1 absorbing some of Ward 22’s residential colleges while losing some of its non-Yale population.
Though minor shake-ups with redistricting could happen, Diaz said that there is potential for Ward 1 to be split up completely, essentially eliminating Yale’s ward.
“How much representation of Yale is needed at the Board of Alders?” Diaz said. “Symbolically, it would be an interesting thing to do to delegitimize the position of a Yale alder.”
The last new residential colleges to open, Ezra Stiles and Morse Colleges, did so in 1961.