If my residential college affiliation were calculated by where I eat my meals, I’d be one third LiMur, one third Hoplite and one third Sillimander. The catch? I’m a Stilesian, loyal to the land of brick pizza ovens and hungry athletes.
While I love Stiles, we’ve been the catalyst for some poorly crafted trends. In 1785, Ezra Stiles created the first grading system, recording in his diary that 12 of his students were “Inferiores.” Sometime before 2018, the Stiles dining hall began restricting dining hall hours, preventing students of other residential colleges from accessing our famed brick pizza ovens between the hours of 5:00 and 6:30 p.m.
With the recent closings of Silliman and Hopper, this trend is creating more problems than solutions.
Let me be clear — I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill. Yale students could easily eat at different times or go to different dining halls. It’s not about the inconvenience of walking an extra five minutes or eating dinner 30 minutes earlier. Rather, it’s about the impact that this has on community at Yale and intercollege relationships. Yale is based on community. It’s the foundation of this college and what differentiates us from other universities. Anything that threatens that, even marginally, is worth discussing.
There are two reasons why the impact on Yale’s community will be more than just marginal. The first is that the mass of people who used to eat in Hopper and Silliman will now just move to other central colleges, like Jonathan Edwards and Branford — Saybrook not included, for obvious reasons. The second is that this shift will lead those colleges to adopt similar dining hall restrictions. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that we could all end up having to eat dinner in our own colleges every night, unless we have the honor of being the sole guest of someone who lives elsewhere.
So, why does this matter? A key reason why Hopper and Silliman limited transfer hours is to protect community within their own colleges. But for most of us, dinner is the only time when we can see friends who aren’t in our colleges or classes. As the school year progresses, breakfast devolves into eating a granola bar on the Blue Line and lunch is converted into the beep of a Durfee’s swipe. That leaves dinner. For many of us, there’s a quiet joy in sitting down with a handful of friends in the dining hall, letting time tick by. There’s also a beauty in the diversity that Hopper and Silliman embody during those hours: They become places where you can encounter those from all over the Yale community, who you’d never see otherwise. In the last three days, that energy has chilled into a cold calmness.
That isn’t to say that community within Hopper and Silliman don’t matter. They do. What I’m saying is that no college should close to transfers, because community will forge on regardless. Butteries, libraries and gyms are still private spaces, college-only events will still run and, at the very least, everyone will still live together. If anything, Berkeley closing led to overcrowding in Hopper. It’s a domino effect. Eventually, it’ll all topple.
This change also disproportionately hurts those in Timothy Dwight, Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin. Most campus events happen around Cross Campus. If a student in Franklin wants to grab dinner in Silliman on their way to section in WLH after working in the CEID all day, they can’t anymore. They now have to choose between walking to Trumbull or Branford to eat or going back to Franklin. And it gets worse. If this trend continues, it becomes a nightmare for those who are relegated to colleges away from the center of campus, people who are either hurt by random assignment or lack legacy status to choose otherwise. It also makes it harder for these students to grab meals with groups of friends or extracurriculars, because people are unwilling to make the trek up to Franklin and Murray.
I don’t blame Hopper and Silliman for closing to transfers. The onus is not on them to fix the problem of overcrowding in dining halls, it’s on Yale’s administration. It’s the administration’s responsibility to protect community at Yale, whether that’s through shifting dining hours later — very few of us eat from 5 to 5:45 p.m. — or acknowledging that dinner at Commons could’ve alleviated this problem.
By 2021, we will have 800 more students than usual on campus than we did before the new colleges opened. If Yale’s administration can’t successfully manage the first slew of 200 that we added to this year’s incoming first-year class, then the fabric of Yale’s community will slowly unravel, through more than just dining halls. And trust me, there are few things that people have more in common than our need to eat.
Katherine Hu is a first year in Ezra Stiles College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .