Branford College will no longer cover the cost of Sunday dinner for its students who live off campus, the college announced in an email last week.
Branford’s decision to charge its off-campus students for “family night” — Sunday dinners at residential college dining halls that are restricted to the college’s members — comes as the administration continues to review the state of the residential college system. On the Overheard at Yale Facebook page, a post with a screenshot of the email sent to the off-campus Branford students was met with fierce opposition and garnered dozens of comments.
“Branford has covered the cost of dinners for Off Campus students in Branford on Sunday Nights (Family Nights) in our dining hall,” Susan Obert, Branford’s operations manager, wrote in the email announcing the policy change. “Beginning with this semester, we will no longer be offering these complimentary dinners.”
On Overheard at Yale, which is restricted to users with a valid Yale email address, several community members said that the change was detrimental to the cohesion of the Branford community. Some lamented what they characterized as the University’s desire for marginal profits at the expense of student well-being. One student questioned how Sunday dinner can still be called “family night” when members of the college are treated more like “customers” than family.
The Branford Head of College and Dean’s offices did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Branford is not the first residential college to change its family night policy. Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News that several other colleges have already stopped giving family night meal privileges to students who are not on a meal plan. But he said he is “not aware of other colleges changing their policies this year.”
Alexa Martindale, Morse College’s operations manager, explained that each residential college is accountable for allocating its budget according to its priorities. This includes covering the cost of special dining services and maintenance of facilities.
“Each college has control over certain aspects of their budget and each one must determine their wants versus needs, then spend accordingly within that portion of their budget,” Martindale said. “It’s a balance. We’d love to only host fabulous events but sometimes we have to reupholster the library chairs.”
According to the email announcing the policy change, Branford will continue to encourage its off-campus students to eat meals in the college’s dining hall. The email also states that the college will also offer opportunities for its community to gather as a whole, including “pizza nights, etc. throughout the year.”
Jacob Diaz ’20, a junior in Branford who lives off campus, told the News that he feels alienated from the Branford community.
“As a low-income student who made the financial decision to live off campus, Branford’s decision to make us pay to attend family night tells me that Branford has no interest in ensuring I am a member of its community,” Diaz said. “Not only does this decision have financial consequences for me, as I was counting on one free meal per week, but now I feel as though my place in the Branford community comes with a price tag.”
Morse Head Catherine Panter-Brick reaffirmed that Morse had no intention of withdrawing its family night invitation to off-campus students affiliated with the college.
“Every college is looking at their own options,” Panter-Brick said.
Dinner costs $15.51 per student.
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