Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 15, 2008|Volume 36, Number 18















Among the issues raised by the Study Group was whether -- should any new residential colleges be built -- freshmen should live with their classmates on Old Campus (shown above) during their first year, or reside with upperclassmen for each of their four years, as is currently the case in Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges.

Study Group releases report on feasibility of adding two new residential colleges

President Richard C. Levin this week received the report of the study group he appointed a year ago to consider the merits of adding two residential colleges to Yale College. Levin shared the report with faculty and students along with the following memorandum:

Re: The Report of the Study Group to Consider
New Residential Colleges

I. Introduction

I am pleased to furnish you with the Report of the Study Group that I established in February 2007 to examine the desirability of adding two residential colleges. I initially appointed two committees: one to examine the impact of increasing enrollment on our academic programs and the other to consider the impact on student life. Joseph Gordon, Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Deputy Dean of Yale College, chaired the former committee, and Professor William Sledge, former Master of Calhoun College and former Chair of the Council of Masters, led the latter committee. Penelope Laurans, Associate Dean of Yale College and Special Assistant to the President, has served ably as the Vice Chair of both committees, and Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College, oversaw the entire project. The two committees joined forces last summer to ensure that the academic and student support issues were reviewed in a coordinated fashion. Thirty-four students, faculty and administrators worked conscientiously during the past twelve months, and I want to thank all of them for their thoughtful work.

In my letter to the community introducing the study a year ago, I stated that “before we decide to proceed with new colleges, we want to be certain that the quality of the Yale College experience would be maintained or enhanced, and not diminished.” The Study Group has explored this issue with great wisdom and depth. The Group has helped us to see what we must do to ensure that the quality of the Yale College experience is maintained, and it has also identified a number of areas where the current conditions in Yale College could be improved if we undertake an expansion of the student population. Among the areas are the availability of physical education and performing arts facilities, and an insufficiency of faculty resources in the undergraduate arts curriculum and in certain departments and programs with large enrollments. The committee also raises important questions about the role of teaching fellows in undergraduate education and the adequacy of freshman and sophomore advising, questions raised previously by the Committee on Yale College Education in 2003 but not yet fully resolved. The principal recommendations of the Study Group, listed in the Executive Summary of the Report, will be an invaluable guide should the Corporation decide to proceed with the planning for two new residential colleges. Many other recommendations contained in the body of the Report will provide useful guidance as well, although we should not consider the Report a definitive blueprint. Inevitably, some of the suggestions of the Study Group will prove infeasible, and some of the issues identified may yield solutions superior to those suggested in the Report.

The Report of the Study Group will be presented to the Corporation later this week with my enthusiastic endorsement. At the meeting, I will suggest that we take two additional steps prior to seeking final Corporation approval of the project at our June 2008 meeting:

1) the Provost, with the assistance of the Vice President for Finance and Administration, will prepare an initial capital budget covering both the construction of the colleges and associated facilities in support of expansion of Yale College, and a pro forma operating budget detailing the increases in operating costs (new faculty positions, support staff, facilities maintenance, etc.); and

2) the Vice President for Development will prepare a fundraising plan for soliciting the gifts in support of the project and related new expenses.

II. The benefits of increasing the enrollment of Yale College

Given the charge to the Study Group, the Report focuses in great detail on what must be done to implement a transition to new colleges that would not diminish, and would enhance, the Yale College experience. The Report does not elaborate on the very considerable positive benefits from expanding our undergraduate enrollment, benefits that the Fellows of the Corporation have articulated on several occasions in recent years.

The last significant increase in the size of the Yale College student body came with the admission of women in 1969. As the Report notes, when Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges were opened in 1962, enrollment in Yale College increased only slightly (from 3,860 to 3,978), since the new colleges were then intended to relieve the overcrowding of the ten original colleges. Enrollment crept up to 4,100 by the mid-1960s, but took a big leap in the fall of 1969, to 4,686. It increased again under the budgetary pressures of the 1970s, when the endowment lost nearly half its purchasing power. By 1978, undergraduate enrollment first reached 5,200, and it has fluctuated between 5,150 and 5,350 ever since.

When women were first allowed to apply to Yale College, the number of applications soared immediately from 6,781 to 10,039, and the number fluctuated between 9,000 and 13,000 until 2001, when it began a steady rise to its current level of 22,500, spurred by dramatic improvements in financial aid, wider awareness of Yale’s accessibility, the extension of full need-based aid to international students, and a growing appreciation of the quality of a Yale College education. Along with the rise in applications has come an equally dramatic increase in yield (the percentage of those admitted who accept Yale’s offer) from 53% when I became president to over 70% in recent years.

The principal result of these changes in the admissions picture is that Yale College has become significantly more selective. From 1969 to 2000, the percentage of applicants admitted to Yale College fluctuated between 18% and 27%. It was above 20% as recently as 1999. Today, Yale College admits fewer than 10% of its applicants. Long-serving admissions officers agree that in each of the past several years we have denied admission to hundreds of applicants who would have been admitted ten years ago. Despite the well-documented decline in the average performance of U.S. high school students compared with those in other nations, the number and quality of superbly qualified U.S. applicants to Yale continues to increase.

The mission of Yale College is to seek exceptionally promising students of all backgrounds from across the nation and around the world and to educate them, through mental discipline and social experience, to develop their intellectual, moral, civic and creative capacities. The aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere of human activity. For three centuries, we have made this aspiration a reality, to the great benefit of the nation and, increasingly, the world. Today, we have a long queue of highly qualified applicants who would collectively allow Yale to make an even greater contribution to society if more could be educated here. We also have the financial resources and the capacity to raise funds that would make this expanded contribution possible. Since the late-1970s, when the undergraduate population ceased to grow, Yale is larger in virtually every dimension: faculty, staff, library and museum resources, and physical presence. I believe that it is time to use our augmented resources to prepare a larger number of the most talented and promising students of all backgrounds for leadership and service.

There are also other arguments favoring expansion, though each is distinctly secondary to the principal argument that is rooted so clearly in Yale’s mission. As the Study Group’s Report emphasizes, a larger student body would require a larger faculty, especially in departments and programs that are under enrollment pressure now. Expanding the faculty would have substantial benefit for undergraduates, but it would also strengthen graduate education, augment Yale’s contribution to the advancement of knowledge through research, and enhance the standing of departments and programs relative to our peer institutions.

Building new colleges in the location that we are considering (in the triangle just north of the Grove Street Cemetery bounded by Prospect, Canal, and Sachem Streets) would also help to create a new sense of the geography of our campus by enlarging the footprint of Yale College. In time, I believe that the presence of undergraduate residences north of Grove Street would completely alter the perception that Science Hill is “too far away” from the “center” of campus, a point that I further develop below. In fact, the site proposed for the new colleges is only three blocks north of Elm Street, which divides the Old Campus and the Cross Campus. As the Report indicates, the new colleges have the potential of making the whole campus seem smaller, more effectively linking Science Hill with the historic “center” through the proper treatment of Prospect Street, the creation of appropriate “stepping stones” along the way, and the development of facilities for student activities at, near, and beyond the site of the new colleges.

A larger enrollment would also have positive and perennial benefits for the economy of New Haven, arising from the expenditures of students themselves and the University’s expenditures on their behalf, including the creation of new employment opportunities. It is encouraging that both the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen have wholeheartedly supported the expansion of Yale College.

III. Parameters for the new colleges

Before commenting on the advice of the Study Group, let me clarify some of the important parameters that we have established for the proposed new colleges. First, each college would incorporate all of the major features of our existing colleges – separate dining halls and common rooms, courtyards, Masters’ Houses, and student suites built on an entryway system, rather than on corridors.

Second, in our initial planning we determined, with the advice of the Council of Masters and the Dean of Yale College, that the new colleges should house their own freshmen, like Timothy Dwight and Silliman College. The Study Group Report affirms by a student poll what I have learned from casual empiricism over many years: students in Silliman and Timothy Dwight overwhelmingly favor four-year colleges while students in the other ten colleges overwhelmingly favor three-year colleges with freshmen on Old Campus. The Study Group, while not taking a position, has requested further consideration of this issue. I will confess that my personal view is that four-year colleges, with freshmen living in close proximity to one another within a larger community that includes upperclassmen, are better for the social and intellectual development of freshmen. In deference to the Study Group’s recommendation, I will open-mindedly confer once again with the Council of Masters and the Yale College Dean’s Office.

Third, for planning purposes I anticipate that each of the new colleges be approximately 235,000 square feet, which is about 10% smaller than Silliman College. As explained below, some space in the new colleges would be used to reduce the population of the existing colleges by approximately 175 students and eliminate the need for annex housing. The resulting increment in the overall undergraduate population will depend on the propensity of juniors and seniors to live off-campus and the total number of beds in the new colleges. The most likely result would be an increase in the number of students by 12 to 13%, from 5,300 to 5,950 or 6,000. By co-locating the two colleges (in the manner of Saybrook and Branford, or Pierson and Davenport), we would be able to achieve some efficiencies, such as having one kitchen support two serving areas and two dining halls, as well as sharing some of the amenities that are typically housed in the basements of the colleges.

Fourth, in accordance with the timetable that the Corporation discussed when I first charged the Study Group, if the project is given final approval this spring we would expect to break ground for the new colleges no later than the first half of 2011 and open them to students no later than the fall of 2013.

Lastly, it is not my intention to recommend any change in Yale College admissions practices, although we have ample time to address this issue before we start admitting students. For planning purposes, we expect that the percentage of international students and the distribution of intended majors will not change significantly. Because we do not expect to increase the number of varsity teams, the number of recruited athletes will not grow.

IV. Response to the Study Group’s Recommendations

In the reflections that follow, I respond to each of the 15 principal recommendations listed in the Executive Summary of the Study Group’s Report. Instead of responding point-by-point, however, I have reorganized the material to try to capture some of the Study Group’s major themes and to put their recommendations in context.

A. The addition of two new colleges would relieve some current pressures on Yale’s physical and human resources.

The existing residential colleges

The Study Group recommends that approximately 175 places in the two colleges should be devoted to alleviating overcrowding in the existing colleges by eliminating undesirable annex housing on the Old Campus and elsewhere. This is a worthy objective, as it is widely believed that the prospect of annex housing often drives off campus juniors who would prefer to remain in their colleges.

The Payne Whitney Gymnasium

The Israel Fitness Center in Payne Whitney Gymnasium is so popular that it is at capacity much of the day. We are already planning the creation of a second large exercise facility on Science Hill to serve not only the new colleges, but also faculty and students in the sciences as well as the professional schools on the northern end of campus. This should alleviate the crowded conditions at Payne Whitney for the rest of the community.

Faculty in departments with a large number of majors and in interdisciplinary programs

Currently, there is a serious shortage of faculty in the Department of Political Science, and an insufficient number of junior and senior seminars taught by ladder faculty in the Departments of History and Economics. All three of these departments need to grow if majors are to be adequately served, and, indeed, there are already plans for significant growth in Political Science and Economics. The prospect of increased enrollment gives us added incentive to develop more ambitious growth plans for each of these departments.

Similarly, we are currently pressed to find sufficient teaching resources to cover some of our most successful interdisciplinary teaching programs, such as Perspectives on Science and Directed Studies. There is also substantial excess demand for access to courses in Theater Studies, Film Studies, and Art. Whether we expand or not, we need to develop mechanisms to ensure that these programs are adequately staffed.

The advising of freshmen and sophomores

The Study Group notes, as did the Committee on Yale College Education in 2003, that while students are typically well advised once they choose a major, we have too few faculty members sufficiently well-versed in the breadth of the curriculum to serve as helpful advisers for freshmen and sophomores. This has been a recognized problem in Yale College as long as I have been on the faculty. The Study Group is right in thinking that the prospect of expansion makes it imperative that we bring fresh and imaginative solutions to bear on the problem of freshman and sophomore advising. I will ask the Dean of Yale College to make this a high priority.

B. The location of the new colleges provides opportunity to enhance the entire campus.

The Study Group observes that most undergraduates are concerned that the colleges would be too far from the historic center of campus, and it has provided numerous recommendations that would turn the apparent liability of the location into an asset. For example, the Study Group recommends that we improve Prospect Street north of Grove Street to create both “stepping stones” along the way to the new college and amenities on or near the site itself. It is worth noting that some of the investments that are already in progress will help to shorten the perceived distance to the new site and to Science Hill and make the walk more attractive. For example, the recently completed Rose Center and the soon to be built new home of the Yale University Health Services will transform Lock Street behind the cemetery into an attractive, landscaped pedestrian passage from Morse, Ezra Stiles, and the Payne Whitney Gym to Science Hill and the site of the new colleges. And Rosenkranz Hall, the new home of the Political Science Department that is currently under construction on the east side of Prospect, will provide a much more attractive façade than the back of Luce Hall.

Among the facilities the Group recommends for Prospect Street are a student café, classroom space, exercise facilities, a theater suitable for musical comedy and dance performance, rehearsal space for singing and theatrical groups, and meeting space for student organizations. I believe that we should pursue all of these suggestions. A student café on the ground floor of Becton, possibly augmented by a convenience store, is a particularly attractive idea. It could serve as a lighted beacon at night and attract not only undergraduates but also graduate students and faculty from the north end of campus. A new building, soon to be planned for the current site of the University Health Services, will more than compensate the Faculty of Engineering for any temporary loss of space.

We will also act upon the Study Group recommendations to strengthen shuttle bus service, to enhance security in the entire area surrounding the new colleges, and to improve the sidewalks and intersections along Prospect Street to make them attractive, well lit and safe. We also should consider, as the Study Group suggests, how we could make the entire campus friendlier to the use of bicycles.

C. We will need to make a number of substantial investments beyond the construction and operation of the new residential colleges for the expansion of Yale College to be successful.


Increasing the size of Yale College by approximately 12% will require additional faculty to ensure that students continue to have access to small classes and personal supervision. But, as the Study Group notes, the need for increased faculty will differ from department to department and program to program. Some departments with excess teaching capacity will need no additional faculty; some will need a roughly proportionate increase in ladder faculty, while others, as noted above, are currently too small to meet their teaching demands and will need to grow by more than 12%. Certain programs, such as writing and foreign language courses, will require an increase in non-ladder teaching faculty.

Should the colleges be approved by the Corporation, I will, as recommended by the Report of the Study Group, ask the Provost to work with the deans to set in motion a detailed review of each department and teaching program within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as the professional schools with teaching responsibilities in Yale College, to ensure that, by the time the student population is expanded, sufficient faculty are in place to maintain and strengthen the curriculum.

The Study Group also notes that if traditional approaches to teaching are not modified, we would need additional teaching fellows to support lecture and laboratory courses. The Study Group echoes the recommendation of the Committee on Yale College Education in urging that we create new models for graduate student teaching that are in the best interest of both graduate student career development and of undergraduate learning. It is time to get on with this task. I will ask the Dean of the Graduate School to work with the departments to develop specific proposals that accomplish this dual objective.

Support Staff

We must be committed to making such additions to the staffing of student services as necessary to preserve the quality of support. For example, we will need to assess the staffing requirements of the University Health Services, Undergraduate Career Services, and the Digital Media Center for the Arts, among many other organizations that provide academic and administrative support to Yale College students. It goes without saying that the new colleges would require staffing and funding at a level commensurate with the existing colleges. I will ask the Vice President for Finance and Administration to work with the Provost to ensure that sufficient staff are added to support not only student services, but the new faculty who are added as well.


The unanticipated popularity of the new Bass Library, which was planned to accommodate the possible expansion of the student body, makes clear that we will need to find more study space in the Sterling Memorial Library. As the Study Group notes, the coming renovation of Seeley G. Mudd Library also may offer possibilities for enhanced study facilities for undergraduate and graduate students alike, but the specialized nature of its collections may not make it as suitable for as many students as Sterling and Bass Libraries. I will ask the University Librarian to work with the Provost to develop plans to accommodate an expansion of the undergraduate population.


It is clear that our current classrooms are not utilized efficiently, as the Study Group notes, but there are initiatives currently under way to spread the scheduling of classes across the week. Although much remains to be accomplished in improving and coordinating our classroom scheduling process, I nonetheless agree with the Study Group’s observation that there will be need for additional classrooms, and it would be useful to locate them in the vicinity of the new colleges. Having students from the existing colleges who are not in science courses come to this precinct on a regular basis would help to mitigate the perception that the new colleges are remote and isolated. The size and configuration of new classrooms will warrant careful study by the Provost and the Classroom Planning Group.

The Arts

In the past decade, we have added five new performance and multipurpose spaces within the renovated residential colleges, as well as the new Off Broadway Theater. But the artistic life of undergraduates is so lively that there is a pressing need for more, especially for space that is specifically designed for dance, music, and theater. I heartily concur with the Study Group’s recommendation to create both performance and rehearsal space in the vicinity of the new colleges. This will animate the area in the evenings. It is clear, however, that we will still need additional arts space downtown. The need for additional music practice rooms is being addressed by the pending renovation of Hendrie Hall, but more space for theatrical productions, rehearsals, costume making, set construction, and storage is needed in the Chapel Street area, as is expansion space for the highly successful Digital Media Center for the Arts. We plan to address all these needs at the same time as investment in the new colleges proceeds.

The Provost and I strongly support the Study Group’s recommendation of a new Associate Dean in Yale College for the arts to give leadership to the development of the formal curriculum in the arts and to support and coordinate extracurricular endeavors. Such a person could help to fulfill the worthy but as yet unrealized curricular aspirations cited in the Report of the Committee on Yale College Education.

Intramural facilities

We will need to study how and where to add outdoor playing fields as recommended by the Study Group. We will explore whether any possibilities exist in the vicinity of the new colleges, and, if not, we will consider how we might expand the capacity of fields in the vicinity of the Yale Bowl.

D. Adding new colleges will provide an opportunity to strengthen the existing residential college system.

The residential college system is one of the glories of Yale, and it is a major reason why students choose to come to Yale and a major reason why Yale College students report greater satisfaction with their education than students at most peer institutions. Yet, as the Study Group observes, the system is not perfect. Despite steps taken in recent years, students continue to express concern that some colleges have more financial resources than others. The Study Group urges that the college fellowships be strengthened, and that resident fellows and graduate students play a more active role in college life. I look forward to working with the Dean of Yale College and our devoted Council of Masters to address these issues. In particular, I will strongly encourage the new colleges, as well as those masters of existing colleges who wish to participate, to increase the opportunities for graduate and professional students to affiliate with the colleges and serve as mentors and advisers to undergraduates. And I will work to see that in the future each master ensures that resident fellows have specific and substantial responsibilities for service that would benefit the college.

V. Conclusion

I want to close by once again thanking the Study Group for a thoughtful and comprehensive report. As I have indicated, we will move quickly to tackle the numerous issues the Study Group identified, many of which need not await the construction of new colleges.

I am well aware that despite strong support from faculty and alumni, many students remain concerned that new colleges will inevitably diminish the intimacy and quality of the Yale College experience. I hope that the many suggestions of the Study Group, and our enthusiastic response to their recommendations, will help to address these concerns. By creating two new communities of roughly 400 students, intimacy can be preserved. By responding aggressively to the issues of adequate staffing, amenities in proximity to the new colleges, transportation, security, activity space, and support for student activities as outlined by the Study Group, I believe that the quality of education and extracurricular life will not only be undiminished but truly strengthened.

Most important, the expansion of our student population will give Yale the opportunity to deepen and enhance its contribution to society, fulfilling our vital mission to educate the most promising for leadership and service.

Report of the Study Group to Consider New Residential Colleges


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