Niki Anderson

With temperatures steadily dropping and campus glowing with the reds, oranges and yellows of fall, Yale College opened its doors to families of current undergraduates this weekend to give them a glimpse into the lives of their Yale students.

There was no shortage of activities for this weekend’s guests. The more than one thousand families that attended this year’s family weekend balanced reconnecting with their loved ones at Yale with tours, speeches, receptions, sporting events, concerts and more.

“We want families to come get a sense of what their children experience at Yale on a day-to-day basis,” Yale College Dean Marvin Chun told the News. “[We want them to] get a feel for what Yale life is like.”

Highlights of the weekend included panel discussions with Chun and other University administrators, a 34–7 victory for Yale football over Brown on Friday night, a reception in each residential college, tours of Yale’s campus and a concert featuring the Yale Glee Club, the Yale Concert Band and the Yale Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the entertainment put on by Yale College, many student organizations hosted events to showcase their work.

The activities were designed to help guests “put a frame of reference on the experience their students are having at Yale,” said Senior Associate Dean of Yale College and Associate Vice President of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard, who planned the weekend. He added that this year featured several new activities, including a barbecue at the Yale Bowl, which allowed families of athletes and nonathletes alike to see the University’s athletic facilities.

This year’s family weekend was the first to feature an address by the University President. Howard explained that the event was added because many parents, particularly those of sophomores and juniors, did not have a chance to hear directly from the University administration during the academic year. The talk, which was followed by a question-and-answer session, addressed the importance of a liberal arts education and the University’s plans for the future.

“Our boldest investments over the next decade are going to be in the sciences,” University President Peter Salovey said in his address. “We believe that this is a moment where the most significant problems facing humans anywhere on this Earth are going to be solved scientifically.”

Salovey went on to discuss how Yale brings together science, humanities, arts and social sciences to create future innovators capable of solving the world’s most complex problems.

The Q&A session featured questions about college rankings, mental health at Yale, modern anti-intellectualism, the use of alcohol and other drugs on campus, and safety. When asked about football players kneeling during the national anthem, Salovey said he personally disagreed with their decision but respected their right to do so. And when asked about freedom of speech on campus more broadly, Salovey said that Yale fully supports freedom of speech as a means of “getting students comfortable with disagreeing with others,” so long as that speech does not restrict other people’s rights.

The weekend also featured tours of the collections held in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Yale University Art Gallery. Guests who arrived early could hear from former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Wednesday and attend a discussion in the Law School with professor Douglas NeJaime about an upcoming Supreme Court case addressing free speech.

Family weekend is traditionally held in October but was moved to November this year to accommodate the dedication of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges, Howard said. He added that the later date aligned better with sporting events and gave performance groups more time to prepare for the weekend, when many groups have their first performances.

Souna Koolik, mother of Isabel Koolik ’21, told the News she appreciated the chance to see student life up close.

“For me, the truth is the best part is sharing my daughter’s new life with her and having her show me her experience and seeing it through her eyes,” she said.

Niki Anderson |