As Dwight Hall’s Old Campus building undergoes a major renovation this year for the first time since 1930, the community service organization has been adjusting to its new location at 143 Elm St., across from the New Haven Green.
Dwight Hall moved into the new space at the beginning of August. The $4 million renovation of the Old Campus building — designed to modernize Dwight Hall and increase its accessibility — will be completed this spring, and the organization will move back to Old Campus in May 2018.
Dwight Hall Executive Director Peter Crumlish DIV ’09 explained that the renovation will improve facilities, such as electricity, heating and cooling, and create collaborative spaces.
“We wanted to create a space that would be conducive to student innovation and collaboration,” he said.
Student Executive Committee Co-Coordinator Matthew Coffin ’19 said the move has brought with it both challenges and benefits. Coffin acknowledged that the relative distance of the new building makes it less convenient for students. Dwight Hall member groups, he said, have been less likely to use the new space for their meetings this year. Additionally, Coffin noted that the Elm Street building suffers from a lack of rooms large enough to house some Dwight Hall events like cabinet meetings.
Coffin added, however, he does not think the move has otherwise affected student engagement.
“In no way has it affected the way in which students are actually engaging with community service,” he said. “It just means that they’re not utilizing our space in the same way that they were before.”
And while the new location may be less convenient for students, Coffin said, it is more accessible to members of the New Haven community who participate in many Dwight Hall–affiliated programs.
“It’s really important to think about our relationship with New Haven, and I think it has gotten better because our space feels a lot more accessible,” he said.
Still, Coffin said, the organization is working to maintain a strong presence on campus through a variety of initiatives, such as a free apple cider giveaway on Old Campus that took place the week before Thanksgiving and a “penny war” fundraiser with Harvard’s Center of Service, held the week before The Game.
Rosa Shapiro-Thompson ’19, president of the Yale Refugee Project, a Dwight Hall member group, said she has welcomed the temporary move to Elm Street.
“It’s great being here, because we’re right next to the Green and we’re right next to the bus stop, so for us the move has made Dwight Hall feel a lot more accessible to members of the New Haven community,” she said.
Shapiro-Thompson, who is also an urban fellow at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, coordinates a joint youth group program with the Yale Refugee Project. She said that in the past, there has often been “some discomfort” when holding programming on Old Campus, because of the gated-off nature of the space.
Coffin and Crumlish both echoed Shapiro-Thompson’s concerns about the traditional Dwight Hall location.
Coffin said he hopes to find a way to make Dwight Hall feel more accessible to the wider community when it moves back to Old Campus in May.
“That’s a larger problem than just us, like the infrastructure of Yale’s campus is kind of made to keep people who are not affiliated with Yale out, and so that’s a challenge that an organization that’s community-facing, that’s in the literal center of campus has to deal with,” Coffin said.
Crumlish agreed, saying that the organization has to go out of its way to be welcoming and accessible to the New Haven community.
Dwight Hall was founded in 1886.
Talia Soglin | firstname.lastname@example.org