Yale College

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For the college in Wales, see Yale College, Wrexham.
Yale College
Yale College.svg
Former names The Collegiate School
Established 1701
Type Private
Parent institution Yale University
Location New Haven, Connecticut
Coordinates: 41°18′42″N 72°55′31″W / 41.31167°N 72.92528°W / 41.31167; -72.92528
Dean Jonathan Holloway
Academic staff 1,155[1]
Undergraduates 5,409[1]
Alumni 75,021[b] [2]
Website yalecollege.yale.edu
[b] The number of living alumni as of the year 2012
Sheffield–Sterling–Strathcona Hall, main administrative building of Yale College

Yale College is the undergraduate college of Yale University. Founded in 1701, it is the original school of the university and the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Although other Yale schools were founded as early as 1810, Yale was known legally as Yale College until 1887, when its schools were confederated and the institution was renamed Yale University.


The Collegiate School was founded in 1701 by a charter drawn by ten congregationalist ministers led by James Pierpont and approved by the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut. Originally situated in Abraham Pierson's home in Killingworth, Connecticut, the college moved to New Haven in 1718 and was renamed for Elihu Yale, an early benefactor. Founded as a school to train ministers, original curriculum included only coursework in theology and sacred languages. Although early faculty, including Jonathan Edwards and Elisha Williams, maintained strict Congregational orthodoxy, by the time of the American Revolution subsequent rectors, especially Ezra Stiles, relaxed the curriculum to include humanities and limited natural science education.[3]

Over the nineteenth century, curricular requirements continued to be relaxed, and the college began to incorporate education in the humanities, natural sciences, and towards the end of the century, social sciences. These expanding fields of study were integrated with graduate schools of the university and amalgamated into a course of liberal arts education, which presaged the advent of divisional majors in the twentieth century.

The relaxation of curriculum came in tandem with expansion in the extracurriculum. Student literary societies emerged as early as 1750, singing groups and student publications in the early 1800s, fraternities and secret societies in the mid-nineteenth century, and intercollegiate athletics by the century's end.[4] Participation and leadership in these groups was an important social signifier and a route to induction into prestigious senior societies. Thus extracurricular participation became central to student life and social advancement, an ethos that became a template for collegiate life across the United States.[5]

By 1870, Yale was the largest undergraduate institution in the country.[5] The growth of the student body prompted major growth in the college's physical campus, the greatest expansion of which occurred in the 1930s, when a gift of Edward S. Harkness created and endowed eight residential colleges.[6] Modeled after the college system of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the colleges were intended to be the social and residential centers of undergraduate life while leaving academic programs under the oversight of university's departments. Two additional colleges were built in the 1940s, and two more in the 1960s.

For most of its history, admission to Yale was almost exclusively restricted to white Protestant men, often the children of alumni. Although early twentieth-century college admissions actively worked to exclude non-Christian and non-white men, by mid-century these processes were becoming more meritocratic, focusing on recruitment of a racially and geographically diverse student body.[7][8] After several decades of debate about coeducation, Yale College admitted its first class of women in 1969.[9] In recent years, the college has focused on international recruitment, quadrupling the fraction of international students admitted over the last twenty years.[10][11]


Yale College is a constituent school of Yale University and contains a dependent system of residential colleges. Its executive officer is the Dean of Yale College, who is appointed to a five-year term by the Yale Corporation.[12] The Dean oversees undergraduate academic curriculum, extracurricular activities, and student discipline, but does not have direct control over the residential colleges. The position is currently held by Jonathan Holloway, a scholar of 20th century African American history.

All of college's faculty are members of the Yale Faculty of Arts & Sciences, and are thereby jointly affiliated with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tenured members of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences constitute the Board of Permanent Officers, who govern the school's curriculum and programs.[12] Most undergraduate courses and majors are offered under the purview of academic departments, divisions of Arts & Sciences faculty which offer undergraduate and graduate curriculum.[13] In addition, the faculties of three Yale professional schools, the School of Art, School of Architecture and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, also offer undergraduate programs.[14][15]

Residential colleges, which are funded and controlled by the university, have separate administration and limited self-governance. Masters, usually tenured faculty members, are appointed to renewable, five-year terms by the Yale Corporation to oversee the affairs of each college. Residential college Deans, who are supervised by the Dean of Yale College, are in charge of undergraduate academic oversight. Each residential college is governed by its Master, Dean, and Fellows, and has a college council of students with limited jurisdiction over student affairs. Issues affecting multiple colleges are governed by the Council of Masters, composed of the masters of the twelve colleges.

Residential colleges[edit]

The most distinctive feature of Yale College undergraduate life is the residential college system.[16][17]:19 The system was established in 1933 through a gift by Yale graduate Edward S. Harkness, who admired the college systems at Oxford University and Cambridge University. Each college consists of a dormitory building or buildings, surrounding a quadrangle or courtyard, and features a dining hall, library, and student facilities ranging from printing presses to darkrooms. Each college is led by a Master, a faculty member who serves as its chief administrator, and a Dean, who oversees student academic affairs. University faculty and distinguished affiliates are associated with the colleges as fellows. While unlike their forerunners in England the colleges do not administer academic programs, colleges do sponsor academic seminar courses that fall outside the normal departmental structure of the university.[18]

Harkness' gift built and endowed eight colleges, completed from 1932 to 1934. Additional colleges were opened in 1935 (Timothy Dwight College), 1940 (Silliman College), and 1962 (Morse College and Ezra Stiles College), bringing present-day number to twelve. The first ten colleges were designed in Collegiate Gothic and Georgian Revival styles; the two built in the 1960s colleges are Modernist reinventions of the college plan. In 2007, Yale announced the construction of two new residential colleges near Science Hill, both stylized after the Gothic colleges, which are expected to open in 2018.

List of residential colleges[edit]

Residential colleges are named for important figures or places in university history or notable alumni; they are deliberately not named for benefactors.

  1. Berkeley College – named for the Rt. Rev. George Berkeley (1685–1753), early benefactor of Yale.
  2. Branford College – named for Branford, Connecticut, the town in which Yale was founded.
  3. Calhoun College – named for John C. Calhoun, vice-president of the United States. The smallest college.
  4. Davenport College – named for Rev. John Davenport, the founder of New Haven. Often called "D'port".
  5. Ezra Stiles College – named for the Rev. Ezra Stiles, a president of Yale
  6. Jonathan Edwards College – named for theologian and Princeton University co-founder Jonathan Edwards.
  7. Morse College – named for Samuel Morse, inventor of Morse Code. Also designed by Eero Saarinen.
  8. Pierson College – named for Yale's first rector, Abraham Pierson.
  9. Saybrook College – named for Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where Yale was briefly located.
  10. Silliman College – named for noted scientist and Yale professor Benjamin Silliman. About half of its structures were originally part of the Sheffield Scientific School,
  11. Timothy Dwight College – named for the two Yale presidents of that name, Timothy Dwight IV and Timothy Dwight V. Usually called "T.D."
  12. Trumbull College – named for Jonathan Trumbull, 18th-century governor of Connecticut.

Student organizations[edit]

Singing groups[edit]

Yale College has been called "the epicenter of college singing," both for its long history of singing groups and its centrality in establishing collegiate a cappella in the United States. The earliest choral group, the Beethoven Society, dates to 1812 and emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as the Yale Glee Club.[19]:58 Although glee clubs around the country had spawned small collegiate ensembles since that time, the all-senior, all-male Whiffenpoofs, formed in 1909, are often considered to be the oldest collegiate a cappella society in the United States.[20][21] Formalizing a style pioneered by black barbershop groups in New Haven, their repertoire was amplified by the founding of similar groups across the country.[20] The Spizzwinks, founded at Yale four years later, opened a cappella to underclassmen, and coeducation in 1969 made possible all-women's groups and mixed groups. In all, there are now at least eighteen undergraduate a cappella groups in Yale College, ranging from a Slavic chorus to Christian a cappella.[19]:231


Student publications at Yale date back as far as 1806, but the earliest still in print, the Yale Literary Magazine, was founded in 1836 and is believed to be the oldest surviving literary review in the United States.[4]:226[22] Undergraduate publications like the Yale Banner, a yearbook, and The Yale Record, a humor magazine, followed suit, often around the same time similar publications were established at Harvard and Princeton.[23] The Yale Daily News, established in 1878, was a relative latecomer but became the flagship campus daily, and continues to publish during every weekday of the undergraduate academic term. These publications have been joined by many 20th-century debuts, including The Yale Herald and The New Journal.

Secret societies[edit]

In 1832, out of a rift between the college's two debating societies, Linonia and Brothers in Unity, over Phi Beta Kappa inductions, seniors established the first secret society at the university, Skull and Bones.[24] Skull and Bones "tapped" select juniors for membership as seniors, a ritual later adopted by all undergraduate senior societies. Since then, senior societies have proliferated at Yale, with recent estimates of 41 existing societies and senior class membership ranging from ten to fifty percent of each class.[25][26][27] Although once carefully guarded, the "secrecy" of these senior societies is dubious; their existence is widely known and membership rolls for most are published yearly. Nine present-day societies—Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Book and Snake, Wolf's Head, Elihu, Berzelius, St. Elmo, Manuscript, and Mace and Chain—have enclosed private buildings near campus known as "tombs"; many other societies have a fixed on-campus meeting space where they meet twice a week.[26] Activities have varied over time and across societies, but most meet primarily meet for dinners, discussion, and long-form disclosure of members' life history.[25][28] Despite a long history of social exclusion—of Jews and women in particular—many of these societies have prioritized membership diversity in the last several decades.[29][30][31] The semi-secrecy and influential membership of Yale's older senior societies has attracted wide interest and scrutiny, particularly when both 2004 U.S. presidential candidates were members of Skull and Bones.[26][28][32]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Yale 'Factsheet'". Yale University Office of Institutional Research. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Alumni (living) by Yale school". Yale University Office of Institutional Research. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Pierson, George W. (2004). Yale: A Short History (2nd ed.). Stinehour Press. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Kelly, Brooks Mather (1974). Yale: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press. 
  5. ^ a b Thelin, John R. (2013). A History of American Higher Education (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9781421404998. 
  6. ^ Pierson, George W. (1955). Yale: The University College, 1921–1937. New Haven: Yale University Press. 
  7. ^ Karaben, Jerome (2005). The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780618773558. 
  8. ^ Soares, Joseph A. (2007). The Power of Privilege: Yale and America's Elite Colleges. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804756389. 
  9. ^ "Yale Will Admit Women in 1969; May Have Coeducational Housing". Harvard Crimson. 15 November 1968. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  10. ^ Wildavsky, Ben (2012). The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World. Princeton University Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780691154558. 
  11. ^ Christofforsen, John (30 August 2012). "Yale President Levin Stepping Down after 20 Years". Associate Press. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "The Yale Corporation By-Laws". Yale University. 28 September 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Unlike many American universities, Yale does not have a system of divisional minors.
  14. ^ "Faculty Handbook". Yale University Office of the Provost. August 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  15. ^ "Yale College Programs of Study, Forestry & Environmental Studies". Yale College Dean's Office. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "Residential Colleges". Yale College. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  17. ^ Ryan, Mark B. (2001). A Collegiate Way of Living: Residential Colleges and a Yale Education. New Haven, CT: Jonathan Edwards College. ISBN 9781402850615. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  18. ^ http://yalecollege.yale.edu/academics/special-academic-programs/residential-college-seminar-program
  19. ^ a b Winstead, J. Lloyd (2013). When Colleges Sang: The Story of Singing in American College Life. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 9780817317904. 
  20. ^ a b Duchan, Joshua S. (2012). Powerful Voices: The Musical and Social World of Collegiate A Cappella. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472118250. 
  21. ^ Howard, James M. (1959). "An Authentic Account of the Founding of the Whiffenpoofs". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  22. ^ Mott, Frank L. (1930). A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850 1. Harvard University Press. p. 488. ISBN 9780674395503. 
  23. ^ Welch, Lewis Sheldon; Camp, Walter (1899). Yale, her campus, class-rooms, and athletics. Boston: L. C. Page and Company. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  24. ^ Schiff, Judith (Sep–Oct 2004). "How The Secret Societies Got That Way". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Alden Branch, Mark (Jul–Aug 2014). "Open Secrets". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  26. ^ a b c Schenkel, Ben (30 March 2012). "Tapping in". Yale Herald. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  27. ^ Robbins, Alexandra. "George W., Knight of Eulogia". The Atlantic. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Robbins, Alexandra (2002). Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780759527379. 
  29. ^ Oren, Dan A. (1986). Joining the Club: A History of Jews and Yale. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300033304. 
  30. ^ "Yale Alumni Block Women in Secret Club". New York Times. September 6, 1991. Retrieved 2009-02-28. 
  31. ^ Brown, Buster (25 February 2013). "Skull & Bones: It's Not Just for White Dudes Anymore". The Atlantic. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  32. ^ Taylor, Frances Grandy (30 March 2000). "Yale's Not-so- Secret Societies". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  33. ^ Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is – M. H. Eastman (1852)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]