Before students finalize their fall schedules, they may have eaten ramen in the new residential college dining halls, or connected with classmates now living on Science Hill. While the integration of the new colleges into the rest of campus may have felt seamless for some, the University has spent decades diligently preparing for this moment.
Professors, residential college leaders and dining hall executives interviewed all agreed that months of hard work and preparation, which culminated this summer, have equipped Yale well as it undergoes this historical expansion.
“The University has been preparing for a long time by expanding resources where needed,” Yale College Dean Marvin Chun said. “While adjustments may be needed from term to term, I do not foresee major problems.”
Stephen Davis, head of Pierson College and the current chair of the Council of the Heads of College, said residential college leaders have long been trying to anticipate the logistical questions raised by the new colleges. For instance, he said he has been involved in various discussions about dining hall traffic, class sizes and building community in the new colleges.
For Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges, preparation included both logistical details — like making sure each bed had a mattress on it — and broader questions of community-building.
Charles Bailyn, astronomy professor and head of Benjamin Franklin College, told the News in August that the infrastructural components of the building, like functioning toilets and light switches, were essentially finalized by the time he moved in several weeks prior to the fall term. However, some “glitches” have persisted, like spotty cell phone reception on the lower level, which is estimated to be fixed by mid-September.
“I had a sudden realization a few weeks back,” Bailyn said. “We’re about to have 350 students in this college, none of whom know where the laundry room is.”
Because the two new colleges both have several interlocking courtyards and relatively complicated underground passages, Bailyn said plans were underway to make it easier for students to find their way around — something he said took him a “solid week of wandering around” to learn.
He said that maps, signage and colored footprints on the underground passageway will soon be installed to assist students. These are not just intended for residents of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray, but for all students and faculty members at Yale who may visit the seminar rooms, which will be used in future semesters.
Tina Lu, East Asian Languages and Literatures professor the head of Pauli Murray College, compared the preparation for the colleges’ opening to being a new parent, trying to anticipate every need while accepting there will be unforeseen circumstances.
“I think things are going great, but I think we should just all be realistic even as we’re filled with enthusiasm for this project and this community,” Lu said.
For instance, Lu said that it was not until the end of the summer that UPS personnel learned that the addresses of the new colleges corresponded to real places. She noted that College Teas have been lined up for the year ahead, with several featuring people heavily involved with the expansion project, such as a lead architect and project manager.
Beyond intellectual events, Lu said she was excited to plan opportunities for students to create, and celebrate, their community — like a birthday party for Pauli Murray LAW ’65 in November, and a traveling biographical play that will perform in the college’s theater this spring.
“And the community, I have no questions about: That’s going to be awesome,” said Lu, adding that the college council and intramural sports chairs are already in place, and student aides helped move-in run smoothly.
Lu said that some questions persist — such as the delayed opening of the practice rooms last week and “finicky” elevators — but aspects of the college are gaining their own momentum. Lu added that she expects community-building efforts to be much more bottom-up and student-based than top-down.
While students in the new colleges adapt to their new communities, all undergraduates will be impacted by the larger size of the student body and the shifting of the center of campus toward Science Hill.
For instance, Bailyn said the conventional model of first-year students either living on Old Campus or in Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges is shifting toward one where students either live on the quad or in their residential college. He added that students and faculty in the sciences will also have easier access to dining halls, which might bring the University community even closer together.
Lu said that questions about class size are important, and ongoing.
“One good thing is that the size of Yale College is going up 5 percent each of these years, so we have enough time to tinker a little bit around these issues,” Lu said.
The administration prepared for greater course demand — to accommodate the increased first-year class size of 1,600 — by hiring more faculty members. The net size of tenure and tenure-track professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences grew by 17 since last fall, with a total of 668 members, according to FAS Dean Tamar Gendler. The University also added 17 instructional, or non-tenure-track, positions to the FAS this year, in anticipation of the 15 percent increase of the first-year class.
These hires are aimed to accommodate more students in popular introductory courses, such as “Issues Approach to Biology,” “Microeconomics,” English courses and foreign languages including French and Spanish.
French professor Ruth Koizim said she was pleased that the allocation of additional sections was left up to members of the department and based on their sense of where they will be needed. She praised the administration for being proactive and supportive in the preparation for the new colleges, even if some information — like the location of certain classes — was not communicated to faculty members.
Another subject of much speculation, research and planning over the summer was dining hall capacity and traffic flow.
Rafi Taherian, the associate vice president of Yale Hospitality, said a task force composed of executive chefs, management personnel from several residential colleges and executives of Yale Dining began their work last fall.
Because the opening of the two new colleges’ dining halls coincided with the closure of the dining hall at Commons, Yale Hospitality worked to develop plans for how to provide alternative lunch service to the 1,100 patrons who normally ate in Commons and host many of the 300 events that took place there.
Taherian said that the new colleges will add 600 seats to the residential dining system, renovations in Berkeley and Silliman colleges will accommodate more diners and facilitate traffic, the online Meals2Go program has been expanded, efforts are ongoing to enable the Yale Dining Fast Track app to show wait times per location and several dining halls will be open either earlier or later than usual for lunch service.
“It goes without saying that the summer of 2017 was one of the most intense yet rewarding for all of us,” said Michael van Emmenes, the director of business optimization for Yale Hospitality. “That being said, hiring and training passionate and skilled foodies, testing and evaluation of delicious global flavors and anticipation of arriving students were also a priority.”
The establishment of the two new residential colleges will increase Yale College’s student body by 800 students over the next four years.
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