Yale Daily News

Residential colleges restrict undergraduates’ social circles, fraternities “[exert] too much control” on campus and most students are “somewhat satisfied” with their social options, according to a newly-released survey about social life at Yale College.

These are just three findings outlined in the 103-page report –– released in a college-wide email on Thursday afternoon –– presenting the results of a 2018 survey administered by the Committee on Social Life and Community Values. Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun appointed the committee in February 2018 to find ways to support and develop campus social cultures in alignment with core Yale College community values.

Administered by the committee to all Yale College students from April 27 to May 12, 2018, the survey asked students to describe the ways they socialize. Options included “hanging out with friends,” “attending plays/performances/concerts” and “participating in physical activities.” It asked specific follow up questions if students selected “attending pregames/parties/dances” as their preferred form of socialization –– a choice the committee made due to widespread campus concerns about party options and the impact of Greek life. 39 percent of Yale College students responded to the survey.

“The survey’s findings offer excellent guidance to the work ahead of improving Yale College’s social life which should promote student wellness, collaboration across colleges and communities, and a sense of belonging for everyone,” Chun wrote in Thursday’s campus-wide email. “And as I have before, I urge you to make mindful choices about how and where you spend your time.”

Chun added in his email that he hopes the results of this survey will inspire new “programming ideas and planning models” that will include a broader community of undergraduates in new spaces like the Schwarzman Center, which is scheduled to open next fall. He also cited “Bulldog Bash, the 50 Fest party celebrating coeducation at Yale College, the expansion of financial support for pre-orientation programs and sophomore events in the residential colleges” as recent initiatives to improve campus social life.

According to the report, 83 percent undergraduate respondents said they were satisfied with their options for socializing overall. The most popular ranked option was “hanging out with friends” followed by “attending pregames/parties/dances,” which came in at 98.3 and 87.6 percent respectively. Positive responses praised the diversity of social spaces and reflected satisfaction with residential college communities and extracurricular activities.

Still, 510 comments expressed dismay over a lack of social options on campus. Many students criticized “an emphasis of heavy drinking” as well as the tendency of the residential college system to make “it more difficult for students to interact with peers.”

“I see it differently. I see kids in Murray and Franklin as their own cluster and then kids on Old Campus as their own cluster,” said Sophie Edelstein ’23, a first year in Pauli Murray College, in an interview with the News. “I have friends on Old Campus, but I’ve noticed that when we meet up with them, it always seems like the Murray group meets up with a bigger group of Davenport and Hopper girls — it’s like [Murray is] totally separate.”

Other negative comments said that fraternity parties exerted too much influence on the social scene. Many of these comments said that fraternities were spaces of “social exclusivity, hyper-sexualization, and class/racial stratification,” the report stated. The remarks reported discrimination based on race, gender, social class and sexuality. Many students also took issue with “closed parties” that require a guest list.

The report noted that 12 percent of the overall survey respondent pool expressed “concern about the climate of fraternity parties and the influence of Greek life on campus social atmosphere.” The “bulk” of those negative comments, the report read, came from students who said they did not attend fraternity parties, with only 2 percent of the group of concerned students indicating that they attend them.

Some survey respondents expressed a desire for an increase in the number of large social spaces that are not controlled by single-gender or athletic groups. A few students even called for Yale to dismantle single-gender organizations. According to the report, 48 percent of survey respondents said they have attended fraternity parties.

“When I go to parties I go most often with diverse groups of friends — with respect to gender specifically,” said Jack McArthur ’22 in an interview with the News. “I feel like when I have gone to frats, the women seem to enjoy the events as much as the men. I do think it’s a result of going with a diverse group of friends — it tends to make everyone pretty happy, and I think it can even get around the general vibe of a space being single gender.”

White students reported the highest satisfaction rates related to pregames, parties and dances with 89 percent of white respondents answering that they were either “somewhat” or “extremely” satisfied. African American and Asian students overall were 12 percent less likely than their white peers to express high levels of satisfaction in the social spaces. Male respondents were 44 percent more likely than female respondents to express extreme satisfaction. Gender non-binary students were more than twice as likely as their peers to be dissatisfied with their options for socializing at pre-games, parties and dances.

Students reported that the primary obstacle to crafting a successful social life was “academic commitments and assignments.” First-generation and low-income students were about twice as likely as their peers to report financial constraints as obstacles to their socializing. 62 percent of FGLI students expressed this concern in comparison to only 30 percent of the greater student body. In line with this trend, 32 percent of FGLI students said that paid employment was an obstacle to their socializing, but only 18 percent of the greater student body reported the same.

The survey asked 26 questions.

Audrey Steinkamp | audrey.steinkamp@yale.edu