Adrian Kulesza

In May, the Hall of Graduate Studies closed in preparation for renovations to turn the 85-year-old building into a hub for the humanities.

But as faculty members from the humanities prepare to gain a new centralized home for their studies in 2020, many graduate students feel that the closing of HGS marks the loss of what many graduate students considered a social space, according to Jenette Creso GRD ’23, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly’s facilities and healthcare committee.

“HGS represented the graduate students,” Puskar Mondal GRD ’22 said. “It was like the equivalence of the undergraduate residential college. It was a symbol of hope for us. Most importantly it was home, and now, they have taken it from us.”

In its new form, HGS will no longer include dorm rooms for graduate students. In June, more than 100 graduate students vacated HGS, many of them moving into the recently renovated Baker Hall and newly constructed 272 Elm Street. While HGS offered 169 dorm beds to graduate students, the new and renovated dorm spaces will offer 222 beds to professional and graduate students.

And the McDougal Graduate Student Center, which aims to build the graduate student community, was moved from HGS to a renovated space at 135 Prospect Street in 2017. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley said the center hosts “a popular graduate lounge and study spaces used by GSAS students from all disciplines.”

According to Cooley, planning for the construction of 272 Elm Street began several years ago. It was held in consultation with the Provost’s office and graduate students who sought more apartment-style living. Of the 48 students eligible to move into the building, 10 decided to do so, with others choosing separate Yale housing and off-campus options. Graduate and professional students were also given priority when applying for 30 beds at 43 Whalley Avenue, 11 Dixwell Avenue and 142 York Street in University-owned properties managed by Elm Campus Partners.

Cooley told the News that students have adjusted well to their new living spaces.

“Students appeared to love the new dorms, which have air conditioning, common indoor and outdoor spaces and a gym,” Cooley said. “Yale Graduate Housing is also hosting regular residential life events at its other Yale dorms and apartments throughout the year, to bring students together to get to know each other and have fun.”

But Creso said that some graduate students feel that the relocated McDougal Center and the new dorms have not replaced the feel of a centralized community formed within HGS.

“A lot of graduate students feel that the graduate housing at HGS was a great space for students of varying backgrounds to get to know each other in such a way that, without a common living space, they never would have,” Creso said. “The movement of the McDougal Center further up towards Science Hill has deterred many students I know from feeling like it is as accessible to them as it was before.”

Two former residents of HGS told the News they missed the social community fostered within the HGS dorms.

Fabian Schrey GRD ’19 said he considered HGS a space where he could relax and work with peers. He added that 272 Elm Street lacks a common room and instead has a reading room, which makes it difficult to converse and generate new ideas with peers.

Mondal said that while living in the hall he enjoyed the social environment as well as the opportunity to collaborate with students from different departments. According to Mondal, who now lives at 272 Elm Street, his new living arrangement does not foster the same social community as did HGS.

After the renovation of HGS, the building will house 15 different humanities departments and programs, including the Directed Studies program and the Public Humanities program. The Whitney Humanities Center will also move to HGS from its current location at 53 Wall St. The renovated building will consist of 14 floors, which will incorporate graduate student workspaces, a common room for first years taking D.S. and other first-year humanities seminars and a movie screening room with 90 seats.

Though Creso said that many students are ambivalent about the loss of HGS dorms, she said that transforming HGS into a humanities hub would have a positive impact on students, because in many humanities departments, graduate students do not have personal offices.

She added that giving graduate students access to reserved work spaces will benefit them.

“While this new space in HGS will not include all humanities departments, it is a step in the right direction towards getting as many people as possible in the graduate school dedicated academic workspace,” she said.

The closing of HGS also temporarily displaced a variety of academic departments, including the departments of History, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, American Studies and Slavic Languages and Literature.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu