Sharon Li

Richard Hausman ’24 and Pradz Sapre ’24 “enjoying a lovely picnic.”

A beige couch was set in the center of Cross Campus. A white table set with a snake plant, a Dunkin Donuts coffee jug, and a speaker playing “Budapest,” “Tongue Tied,” “Redbone,” and “Let Me Adore You.” A girl on a bench nearby sang along. Some people in the group hugged each other and chatted while, others worked on their computers. Two of them ran with an inflatable couch, capturing the air the way one would capture butterflies. Most of them wrapped themselves in blankets. It was reminiscent of the beginning of the Friends theme song. “This is what Yale’s like everyday,” one of them said, talking to a large tour group passing by.

Passing people is my favorite pastime. Every week in October, I chose to set my striped blanket on Cross Campus and study outside. My dad told me “Eres muy palida” — that I needed more “Vitamin D” — plus I loved waving at people that I knew, or overhearing bits of conversations that, out of context, could serve as an interesting quote for creative inspiration or as a distraction.

The Saturday that people placed the couch was a chilly day. I sat on Cross Campus for five hours. It was a random day; I didn’t know who I would talk to or what would happen. But multiple events happened in that short time span.

Two hours after the first group of students placed the beige couch, four students walked out of Berkeley’s north court with a white couch and set it on the side of the lawn. They came out with a television, an extension cord, a white-and-red carpet, a tall floor lamp, and three chairs. They were watching Tom and Jerry and Roadrunner. The first group called out, “You’re not going to join us?” At one point, when the second group had gone to grab more furniture from their common room — a carpet, floor lamp, chairs — the first group almost succeeded in stealing the white couch. They tried to lift it when one of the members of the second group caught them. A friend of mine, shaking her head, approached me after this interaction. “Why is there always something fucking unhinged happening on Cross Campus?”

(The second group of students, some from Jonathan Edwards College and others from Berkeley College.) 

Last year, more people lingered on the green. “Last spring, when people were really starved for social interaction, Cross Campus was the place to be,” Daniel Pita ‘21 said. “I remember coming here, I was gonna meet some friends. And it was filled, it was bustling. It seemed like some city center, [with] a ton of community energy.”

This fall semester, with the transition to in-person classes and the temperature dropping every week, most students I talked to mentioned that they typically cross Cross Campus to get to class or to meet up and go somewhere else. “I’m not on Cross Campus as much as I like to just be outside,”  said Annabella Lugo ‘24. “I feel like lately it’s been kind of empty.”

That Saturday, most of the people I talked to were passing by, on their way to someplace else. Some were lugging backpacks, others were talking with their relatives or friends during a brief coffee break. I asked Yale students, an alum, and a University of Connecticut student what they wish they could do if they spent more time on it and what their favorite Cross Campus memories are.

Josh Chough ‘23+1

“It’s always been a dream of mine to have a little picnic on the green. My first year, I used to hang up my hammock. And it’s funny because if you look at the trees, there’s space so that none of them are close enough to hang a hammock in between, but you can hang a hammock in between a light post and a tree. There were other people that hung up their hammocks too. So we almost had a club going on, but alas.” 

Christina Young ‘24 (on the right)

“I’m in Low Strung, and right before we were having rehearsal in WLH. But at the end we went outside on cross campus. And [we] did a little run through of our songs [that] we were going to play at the Halloween show that night. And it was really spontaneous. We weren’t planning on doing it. We [felt] like going outside and a crowd gathered.”

Destinie Brooks ‘22

“My first time sitting on cross campus was actually last year. That was the first time I sat down. I came out here and [I’ve] done little outside events, but I haven’t done it recently cause I’ve been stuck inside and I’ve been so busy. But last semester I was coming literally every day. I’m supposed to be writing a paper, but I’m not doing that.

“I had a cute little picnic here with some members of the rugby team as a study break last semester. We had cute little fruit and we [were] eating, chilling, vibes, music, you know, all that. Deleted the 20 page paper from my brain.”

Sasha Lioutikova ‘23

“I normally come here to walk through and go to Bass or sit here on the bench, on the side and just sit in the sun. I walk through every day but I come to sit twice a week. Normally I people-watch and listen to music. I really like admiring people playing with animals like dogs. I also think it’s interesting admiring what people are wearing, looking at fashion across campus.

“One time I came here to play Frisbee with some friends at night… it was super cold….We were just feeling kind of funky and wanted to play around. And so we just played some Frisbee on campus and it was really good cause it was so empty and it’s such a nice, wonderful wide open space.”

Hannah Xiong ‘24

“Me and [one of my] apartment mates from the summer… we laid out a blanket and we were stargazing spontaneously because we were originally doing work and it started getting late. And then we just looked up at the sky and stargazed and talked. And I think that’s one of my favorite memories here so far.”

Jee Park University of Connecticut ‘22

“This place is so beautiful. I saw a lot of people [taking a] graduation photo there [on the steps of Sterling]. So I was actually coming here to take my picture there. I thought this is the most Yale view, right?” 

Anne Cutler ‘82 (and her daughter, Sandra Redjali ‘24)

“[Cross Campus] was really a central spot on campus. I studied mainly in Sterling or downstairs. And so this was a place to hang out or take study breaks or procrastinate from studying [by] talking with friends about politics, what our classes were like, how tired we were, who was more tired than the other, who had more work to do. It looks so much the same. It’s nice to have it be preserved that way. It doesn’t stand out to me as a specific memory place. But I do like the continuity of being back with my daughter now and having that shared location and experience.” 

After the first two months at Yale, days and weeks blur together. It’s hardly a gradual process — homework, readings, p-sets accumulate as the semester continues. Routines are established, and Google Calendars are filled. Cross Campus changes too: it recently has become more quiet. But it doesn’t mean that people are using it less. It’s a dynamic space, one that is simultaneously insignificant as a place that one can walk through and significant as a place one can linger, relax on a couch, watch cartoons. It’s a break from Yale, it’s a way to get to Yale, it’s a way to see Yale come alive in a way that is simply human. When I asked a member of the second group, Jake Slaughter ‘24, why they took out a couch, he shrugged. “We saw [the first group] hanging out and we thought that it was a great idea,” he said. “This is a good memory that we’re in the process of making… I’m just happy to be here.”

ISA DOMINGUEZ