Julia Henry

After a year of renovations at its Old Campus headquarters, Yale’s Center for Public Service and Social Justice — better known to students as Dwight Hall — welcomed students back to its original home at a meet-and-greet event on Friday.

The recent renovations were the first in Dwight Hall’s history since 1930, when the building was transformed from a library into a center for community service and social justice. Occupants have enjoyed several improved facilities in the building since it reopened this June, including upgraded public restrooms with new foot-washing stations for Muslim prayer services and a wheelchair-accessible elevator on the side of the building. Especially on hot days during the summer and the beginning of the fall semester, visitors will also feel the presence of a new air-conditioning system throughout much of the building.

In the past, the lack of air conditioning forced the cancellation of summer activities, said Executive Director Peter Crumlish DIV ’09. For example, middle school students meeting at the building for a summer program in past years were sent home on days when the temperature climbed above 90 degrees.

The building also improved in ways that are less immediately noticeable, Crumlish said, with power upgrades, the addition of three-pronged outlets and various mechanical changes.

Although the rest of the building is operable, the common room area still remains under construction. It is receiving a “fairly limited but nice renovation,” which will include improvements to the walls and floors, Crumlish said. The renovations are set to be completed by mid-September.

“I had hoped it would be done before classes started, but it looks like it’s going to drag on a little longer,” Crumlish said.

During the time the Old Campus location was under construction, Dwight Hall relocated its operations to 143 Elm St., across the street from the New Haven Green and New Haven Public Library. Crumlish said it was good that the temporary location “put us out on the Green,” and provided office space for Dwight Hall and affiliated organizations such as the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. But it lacked meeting space for any more than 25 people and was located “off the beaten path” for Yale students, he said.

Odette Wang ’20, co-president of Dwight Hall member group AIDS Walk New Haven, said she felt “less student presence” in the Elm Street building last year, but added that the Student Executive Committee did a good job of keeping people in the loop through email communication.

“[It’s] not a practical issue, but a symbolic one,” Wang said. “People associate Dwight Hall the organization with Dwight Hall the building. I’m excited for being back here.”

International Network Coordinator Michael Borger ’20 said he believes the reopening could revitalize student interest in community service and create more visibility for the community service opportunities available to Yale students.

At Friday’s open house, Joshua Monrad ’20, a member of the advocacy group Yale Effective Altruists, said he hopes that the remodeled space can “facilitate more contact and cross-pollination of ideas between groups” involved with Dwight Hall.

Tamar Sifri ’20, who serves as Dwight Hall’s director of membership, cited the improvements in collaborative meeting spaces and accessibility as ways that the building can further Dwight Hall’s mission moving forward.

“Dwight Hall has always been a space that is a welcoming one, intended for people or groups of people who want to pursue specifically some sort of socially-minded purpose,” Sifri said. “It’s really nice to have it now to have it not only be that welcoming space in theory, but to have it actually be equipped physically as that space.”

In an email to the News, Dwight Hall Co-Coordinator Serena Ly ’20 also expressed excitement about the building’s collaborative potential. Ly said she “envision[s] the space being used by more community groups with the purpose of raising awareness and driving forward social justice initiatives” in an organized and cooperative way.

Dwight Hall was founded by Yale undergraduates in 1886.

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu

Asha Prihar served as managing editor of the News during the 2019-20 academic year. Before that, she covered community service, Yale's professional schools and undergraduate student life as a staff reporter. She is a senior in Silliman College studying political science.