From mascots to college cheers to nicknames, the first generation of students in Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges are uniquely situated to shape the culture of their colleges for years to come. But much like the process of building the colleges, these students are willing to take their time and wait for the proper moment.
Certain traditions already beginning to take hold: New students in Pauli Murray have taken to calling themselves the “PauliMurs” and a recent residential college event served as a lively chance for first years to brainstorm college chants and dances. But as enticing as the race to create new mascots, celebrations and quirky events has beenin the spirit of other popular customs — from the Berkeley Thunderbrunch to the Saybrook Strip — one theme has persevered: Now is the time for experimentation, not commitment.
“We’re talking about instituting cool things and seeing if they stick, but in some sense I feel like these ideas are wonderfully fluid with a new college. I don’t want to think of them as ossified traditions,” said Tina Lu, head of Pauli Murray. “Tradition is always something that we’re actively making. It’s there to serve the needs of the community now.”
Charles Bailyn, head of Benjamin Franklin, made a similar point, noting that the “driving force for such [traditions] needs to be the interest of the students,” and that now is the time to wait and see how it goes.
Multiple first-year counselors from both Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges strongly agreed with this fluid approach.
“The culture that we create in our college isn’t going to be top down,” said Christian Rice ’18, a FroCo in Pauli Murray. “A lot of it will come from the juniors, sophomores and first years. It’s not just about us.”
The one decision that the FroCos established, Rice added, was that they do not want to be known as Murray College but rather as Pauli Murray College. As the last name of Murray is fairly common, the group explained, using Murray’s full name ensures people are aware of exactly who is being honored. Additionally, it distinguishes Pauli Murray from the Murray family, many of whom owned slaves, and underscores Murray’s gender non-conforming name, Rice explained.
But the colleges’ overall willingness to slowly and deliberately piece together an identity was echoed by first years from both the new colleges. Vienna Scott ’21 and Evan Blasy ’21 told the News that as new students in Benjamin Franklin, they are looking forward to “throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks,” in Blasy’s words.
In fact, a majority of the first years in the new colleges have already formally discussed the implementation of new traditions during scheduled FroCo meetings. Scott said that she has heard ideas about hosting dance parties at Benjamin Franklin College with a “make it rain” theme — a humorous take on the founding father’s presence on the $100 bill. And Blasey told the News that there has been a lot of discussion about kite flying as a recurring activity, an homage to Franklin’s famous lighting-key experiment.
Anika Bhargava ’21, a first year in Benjamin Franklin, recalled that she had heard suggestions to host a haunted house in Benjamin Franklin College during Yale’s Halloween festivities. And recommendations for competitive events between the two new colleges, from snowball fights to hide-and-seek, have gathered support.
Kevin Gallagher ’21, a student in Pauli Murray, said that his FroCo group conversations have centered around finding a new mascot for their residential college. According to Gallagher, the spider monkey is currently a popular contestant, though Chelsea Guo ’18, a FroCo in Pauli Murray, told the News that students now seem to be gravitating to more abstract concepts for a mascot. Several first years also mentioned that they had begun referring to the Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray grounds as “New Campus” to poke fun at the majority of their classmates living on Old Campus.
Some of the conversations about new traditions have taken on a more serious tone, however. Paul Lee ’18, a FroCo in Pauli Murray, said first years are discussing a “Pauli Murray Day of Service,” a collective college-wide effort to “connect with and give back to the local New Haven community.” Nicole Sanchez Astupuma ’18, another FroCo in Pauli Murray, told the News that the college will run special family dinners hosted by various groups, such as the peer liaisons or graduate-affiliates, to help foster community growth.
Lu said that she is excited to have friends and relatives of the famed civil rights advocate come to the ribbon cutting ceremony in October. Murray’s life as a pivotal figure in American history has additionally become a special focus for Pauli Murray College, where several FroCos in the college noted that they hope that the life and personality of Pauli Murray remains central to the traditions of her namesake college — whatever those traditions may be.
Edgar Avina ’18, a FroCo in Benjamin Franklin College, told the News that he has focused discussions among first years to address improvements upon Yale’s standard definition of community. Avina encouraged his first years to engage not just with faculty and students, but the dining hall workers, maintenance staff and even landscapers who are still working around the new college building site — all of whom he considers part of their community.
Another FroCo in Benjamin Franklin, Jose Lopez ’18, explained that inventing new chants and dances are not as exciting to him as the opportunity to change what community means for the students of the new colleges. Lopez and Avina both commended their dean and head of college for being receptive to their vision of community formation.
“I feel so much more at home here, and that’s something I’ve not been able to say for the past three years in a residential college,” Lopez said. “Again, you give me your cheers, you give me your name, and I’ll wear it, but I won’t feel a reason to be proud. Whereas here, because of my existence and what I am contributing to the community, this place does feel like home and I think that can be sustained.”
Upperclassmen who transferred into the new colleges have also jumped into the conversation about traditions. Sierra Bare ’18 of Benjamin Franklin said she has really enjoyed the brainstorming process for traditions, even though she will not be around to see most of them for much longer.
Both colleges have already developed one permanent component of their cultures: two new wooden maces meant to be wielded at Commencement and possibly at other special college events. Benjamin Franklin’s mace is in the shape of a lightning bolt with the shape of a key carved out near the bottom and an electric switch poking out of its top. The Pauli Murray mace has wooden spurs strung around its handle and a winding shaft with quotes chosen from Pauli Murray engraved into it.
“What is tradition? Tradition is the fact that the man who delivered this to me told me that after a few years of Commencement stories, it will be darker here where my hand’s grip is, that these parts will get a patina on them,” Lu said. “I chose the quotes from Pauli Murray, things I thought were particularly meaningful, and it’s this thing of beauty that will look differently each year — it’s wood, a living substance.”
Contact Britton O’Daly at firstname.lastname@example.org .