Tag Archive: Benjamin Franklin

  1. Contrary to student opinion, no air conditioning for new colleges

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    Students living in the two new residential colleges next year will have to cope with the end-of-summer heat like every other undergraduate, as, contrary to popular opinion, the new colleges will not be air-conditioned during the school term.

    Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway told the News earlier this month that student suites in Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges will not contain year-round air conditioning. However, the colleges will have a mechanism to circulate “chilled air” in order to keep the colleges cool during the summer, he said.

    Since construction began on the new residential colleges three years ago, the Yale community has speculated about what special facilities the colleges would have. Now, with the buildings nearly complete, a clearer picture of the colleges has emerged.

    Until recent months, Yale’s administration had released relatively few details about the new college facilities, leaving many students, faculty and staff to speculate.

    Still, some Yale students believe incorrectly that the brand-new colleges will be air-conditioned when students move in next fall. Twenty-two out of 30 students interviewed said they had heard somewhere that the colleges would be air-conditioned. But while Yale students in the new colleges will not be any cooler than their peers in the other 12 colleges, Murray and Franklin will have air conditioning when Yalies are off campus.

    “I heard that there will be an air-conditioning system implemented in the colleges,” said Abhinav Kadiyala ’20. “But I also heard they won’t be used to make it fair to the other students.”

    Students reasoned that since the colleges are being built with modern technology and come with a large price tag, it would make sense for the colleges to include an air-conditioning system. This belief was more common among the freshmen interviewed, nearly three-quarters of whom said they expected the new colleges to be air-conditioned. Among sophomores, juniors and seniors, just over half of students had the same expectation.

    Cedrick Lingane ’20 said that he learned there would be an air-conditioning system during a student-led tour of the college site this fall.

    During the tour, Lingane also learned that the air conditioning would be out of student hands.

    But the rumor about air conditioning in the new colleges may not have come out of thin — or cool — air.

    The “chilled air” mechanism described by Holloway is not the same as air conditioning, although it has a similar function. But while Benjamin Franklin and Murray students will not luxuriate in air conditioning, there will be other amenities that Franklin and Murray will offer. For example, while in 2012 Yale announced that the buildings would solely contain single rooms, the design plans shifted in 2014 to include doubles for freshmen. With construction set to finish in August 2017, the colleges will be comprised of 75 percent singles and 25 percent doubles, though some students interviewed said they thought the colleges will have only single rooms.

    Tony Liu ’20, who went on a tour led by an architect involved in the construction, said he was told that earlier blueprints for the colleges included a bowling alley, but these plans were later scrapped for cost reasons.

    But the rumors may be put to rest in the next few weeks, as Holloway announced in an Oct. 13 campuswide email that he would be rolling out further information about the colleges in the near future. The transfer process for students wishing to move into the new colleges was also unveiled earlier this month. Students will be able to apply to transfer to the new colleges in mid-December.

    “Floor plans, room configurations and transfer procedures are nearly complete and will soon be available to you on a website,” Holloway wrote.

    There will also be information sessions on the new residential colleges in November and December.

  2. Plain, Revolutionary Jane: “Book of Ages” by Jill Lepore

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    In 1939, the city of Boston tore down a small house that was obstructing the view of a monument of Paul Revere. This action was an apt metaphor. The house had belonged to Jane Franklin Mecom, the youngest sister of Benjamin Franklin. And she lived in an era in which women were kept low to make way for enlightened men.

    It is not the life of Benjamin Franklin, but rather that of his unremarkable sister Jane that is detailed in “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin,” by Harvard historian Jill Lepore. Lepore, who has won awards both scholarly and popular — including being a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award — would be the first to point out that Jane is only unremarkable in the narrowest sense. We know practically nothing about Jane, and therefore cannot remark much about her. Yet, we can tell she had a fiery wit, no small amount of courage, and that, but for the discriminatory strictures of her time, she might have been as great as her brother.

    Or at least, some woman might have. “Book of Ages” is much more than a biography; it is a story about how the 18th century world differed for different genders. As children, Benny and Jenny — as Benjamin and Jane were known — were similarly precocious. Benjamin was able to escape boredom, obtain a (self) education, and carve out a place for himself. Jane married at 15, was quite possibly raped, bore 12 children, and barely learned to read. “Her days were days of flesh,” Lepore tells us, “the little legs and little arms, the little hands, clutched around her neck, the softness. Her days were days of toil.”

    “Book of Ages” is also a story about how to read silence — and spin a narrative from invisible thread. The first letter we have from Jane’s own hand was written when she was 45 years old. Her entire life until that point must be gleaned from her later recollections, from her family history, from her brother’s off-hand comments, from responses to her letters that have survived (men’s letters were much more likely to survive), and from a lot of useful context. Revolution was just a twinkle in the American eye when Jane was growing up. Waste ran in the streets of Boston. The Franklin family prized its soap recipe above all else. Only the daughters of the wealthiest men learned to write more than their own names. Jane, the daughter of an artisan, was lucky.

    Lepore follows Jane’s husband into debtor’s prison and Jane’s brother into mansions. She lived a long life, and her surviving letters allow Lepore to figure out much of it. Jane also wrote a “Book of Age’s [sic],” which enthralls Lepore. Using paper she made herself, Jane created this book to record the births and deaths of her nuclear family members. The “Book of Age’s” tells a heart-wrenching story, all too typical for an eighteenth century mother — 12 children born, only one to survive to adulthood. A daughter. Jane.

    Lepore follows Jane through the Revolution, through her brother’s rise and the king’s fall. That story is old news, but it is new and poignant when seen through the eyes of someone who had no political power at all. The book ends after Jane’s death, as Lepore miraculously traces the fate of her belongings — books, personal items and letters.

    Perhaps the happiest facet of Jane’s life was her death: She had lived to a ripe old age and her death was peaceful. This was remarkably rare for her time. In her final years, Jane had the fortune of relative comfort. She spent her last days surrounded by great-grandchildren, reading everything she could. She also wrote the bulk of her surviving letters during this time — when she and Ben grew fat together.

    To be sure, “Book of Ages” isn’t perfect. As many reviewers have pointed out, it’s self-indulgent. Lepore spends pages pondering things only peripherally related to the book at large, such as pages and pages of painful detail about the Frankln family soap recipe. And Lepore’s manner of writing can sometimes get annoying. She likes short sentences. A lot. She likes short sentences and repetition and strange phrases stuffed with deep-sounding symbolism. A lot of which is crap.

    Nonetheless, “Book of Ages” should be a model for future biographers and historians alike. Biographers: Write a biography that tells a story so much larger than that of a single individual. Historians: Write a book that is engaging to the general public — as Lepore has.