Residential colleges of Yale University
Yale University has a system of twelve residential colleges with which all Yale undergraduate students and many faculty are affiliated. Inaugurated in 1933, the college system is considered the defining feature of undergraduate life in Yale College, and the residential colleges serve as the residence halls and social hubs for most undergraduates. Construction and programming for eight of the original ten colleges were funded by educational philanthropist Edward S. Harkness, who admired the collegiate universities of England and funded a similar system of residential "houses" at Harvard College in 1928.
Though their organizational and architectural features are modeled after the autonomous, constituent colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, they are dependent colleges of the university with limited self-governance. Each college is led by a Head of College (formerly known as a Master) who is usually a tenured professor, and a Dean in charge of student affairs and residential life. University faculty and administrators are affiliated with the colleges as fellows, and some live or keep offices in the college along with the Dean and Head.
All twelve colleges are built in an enclosing configuration around a central courtyard; all but two employ revivalist architectural styles popularized at Yale by James Gamble Rogers. Each has a dining hall, library, recreational facilities, a Master's House, apartments for resident fellows and Dean, and 250 to 400 student rooms, with most arranged in suites. Most reside in the colleges after their freshman year, during which they reside on the university's Old Campus. In addition to sharing common residence and dining facilities, students plan events, lectures, and social activities within their college, and compete against other colleges in a yearlong intramural sports championship.
Yale plans to open two new residential colleges in 2017, bringing the total to 14.
- 1 History
- 2 Organization
- 3 Design and architectural styling
- 4 Programs and traditions
- 5 Fellowships and awards
- 6 Controversy
- 7 List of residential colleges
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
As undergraduate enrollment in Yale College surged in the early 20th century, alumni and administrators began to express concern that the college had lost its social cohesion and lacked residential facilities sufficient for its size. This alienation and overcrowding, along with the growth of off-campus fraternities and society residences and a desire to further integrate the undergraduate populations of the Yale College and the Sheffield Scientific School, prompted the Yale Corporation to solicit funds for new residential buildings from Edward Harkness, a Yale alumnus with major holdings in Standard Oil. Anna Harkness, Edward's mother, gave money for the Memorial Quadrangle and a few other dormitories, but growth in enrollment still outpaced new residential space.
In 1925, Yale President James Rowland Angell proposed a "Quadrangle Plan" to the Yale Corporation, to be modeled after the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. Harkness admired the Oxbridge colleges as models of academic community and in 1926 offered $12 million to fund the plan. When the Yale Corporation deliberated for two further years and eventually suggested a modest housing plan for freshmen alone, Harkness instead seeded the house system at Harvard College.
Yale provost Charles Seymour approached Harkness about the Quadrangle Plan again in 1930, and Harkness agreed to create and endow eight residential colleges for $15.7 million, with James Gamble Rodgers, a classmate of Harkness who had already designed the Memorial Quadrangle and Sterling Memorial Library for Yale, as the primary architect. After appraising Harvard's larger houses, Yale decided to build colleges of 150 to 200 members each.  A "Committee on Quadrangles" was convened to name the colleges, appoint masters, select designs, organize faculty fellowships, and determine their degree of autonomy within the university.
New residential buildings required a major reconfiguration of Yale's central campus. Science buildings at the present-day sites of Jonathan Edwards, Branford, and Saybrook Colleges, including Sloane Physical Lab, Kent Chemical Lab, and the original Peabody Museum, were demolished and replaced by laboratories on Science Hill. The Yale Divinity School campus was moved for Calhoun College, Berkeley College replaced the Berkeley Oval dormitories, and the university gym was displaced by Trumbull College. After three years of construction, the first seven residential colleges were opened on September 25, 1933, followed by Berkeley College in 1934, Timothy Dwight College in 1935, and Silliman College in 1940.
Early years (1933–1945)
Originally, students applied to join a college after their freshman year, and under this practice the colleges acquired specific social and class positions. Davenport, Branford and Pierson Colleges gained reputations as residences for the wealthy, while Saybrook and Trumbull were known as "scholarship" colleges. While these stratifications were balanced by the college masters, inequalities persisted until sophomore selection was abolished in 1962 and freshmen were randomly assigned to colleges before their matriculation. Thereafter, only students with legacy status or siblings at Yale were allowed to choose their college.
Post-war years (1945–1998)
In the early 1960s, two significant changes occurred in college admission and administration. First, where before all new students had participated in a unified "Freshman Year" and were only admitted to colleges in their sophomore year, after 1962 students were instead randomly assigned to a college before matriculation, closing much of the social distinctions between the colleges. A freshman-year application system is still used in the Harvard College houses. Second, a gift from Paul Mellon allowed the colleges to endow deanships, giving students dedicated academic counsel and ending an era of college life solely administered by masters and their spouses.
Due to the abolition of the Freshmen Year and growing enrollment in the post-war period, the university sought to expand the college system. Another gift from Paul Mellon allowed Yale to build Morse College and Ezra Stiles College on the former site of James Hillhouse High School in 1962. Yale attempted to build two more residential colleges in 1972 on Whitney Avenue, but aborted the plan after the New Haven municipal government rejected an increase in Yale's non-taxable property. To accommodate increased enrollment, some of the colleges were given annex residences, primarily former fraternity buildings or previously unaffiliated residence halls.
In 1969, Yale College admitted its first class of women. Although President Kingman Brewster suggested that Trumbull College be the sole residence of all women undergraduates, student protest prompted the university to integrate women into all the colleges. When her husband died shortly before becoming Master of Davenport College, Katharine Lustman, a child educator, became the first woman Master at Yale in 1971 and served for two years.
Renovation and expansion (1998–)
Between 1998 and 2012, all twelve colleges underwent renovations, beginning with Berkeley College. Since their opening, most had seen only routine maintenance and incremental improvements to plumbing, heating, and electrical and network wiring. Among other improvements, the renovated colleges received new basement facilities, including restaurants, game rooms, theaters, athletic facilities and music practice rooms. Dormitory buildings were added to Pierson and Davenport, and the finished underground space of many of the colleges was expanded. To allow renovations to be done during the academic year, Yale built a residence hall between Payne Whitney Gymnasium and the power plant, commonly called "Swing Space."
As these renovations began, administrators began considering an expansion of the college system. In June 2008, President Rick Levin announced plans to build two new colleges in the northern part of the campus between Grove Street Cemetery and Science Hill. The new colleges will increase enrollment by 15 percent, to about 6,000 undergraduates, while reducing crowding in the existing colleges. Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern, known for his contextual and traditionalist approach to architecture, was selected to design the colleges in a neo-Gothic style. Originally scheduled to be completed by 2013, construction was delayed by the 2008 economic recession. In September 2013, Yale announced a gift of $250 million from Charles B. Johnson for the two new colleges. Construction, begun in January 2015, is expected to be completed in summer 2017. The colleges were named after Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin.
Yale's residential colleges are dependent colleges of Yale University: separately administered but not autonomous or independently funded. Although following the residential and social model of the Oxbridge colleges, they do not similarly possess directly affiliated faculty. Each college is headed by a Head of College, a faculty member who is appointed by the university's president to serve as chief administrator of the college, and a Dean, who is appointed by the Dean of Yale College to oversee academic affairs for the students of the college. Each college has a house for the head of college and his or her family, and private apartments for the Dean's family and resident fellows of the college.
All enrolled students in Yale College are members of a residential college. Although students once selected their choice college before sophomore year, entrenched social exclusion and economic inequality between the colleges prompted Yale to switch to a system of pre-matriculation sorting in 1962. Students are now randomly assigned to a residential college in the summer before their matriculation, with the provision that legacy students are allowed to choose whether to live in the same college as their alumnus parent or sibling.
Most freshmen live in dormitories on the Old Campus, the historical center of Yale College. Members of Timothy Dwight and Silliman are the only students to live in their college as freshmen. Thereafter, students take rooms within the residential college by a lottery system. Due to overcrowding, many of the colleges have annex residences where upperclassmen members live, and some upperclassmen live off campus while remaining members of their college.
Yale faculty affiliate with the colleges as fellows by appointment of the Council of Masters, the governing body of the residential system. Fellows advise students, attend ceremonial functions of the college, and participate in its social and academic life. A small number keep offices in the college by invitation of the Head of College, and a few live in the colleges' faculty apartments as Resident Fellows along with the Dean and Head of College. Each college fellowship hosts weekly dinners for its members. Nearly all university academic functions exist outside the college, with the exception of a few undergraduate seminars hosted by the colleges and selected by their fellows.
Students of Yale's graduate and professional schools are invited to be graduate affiliates of the colleges by their heads of college. The program offers dining hall meals and access to college facilities to the graduate students as well as mentorship for undergraduates. Colleges host up to three graduate affiliates as residents, where they help the heads of college organize lectures, teas, study breaks, and other functions. As resident fellows, they are junior members of the college fellowship.
Design and architectural styling
The colleges are organized around enclosed courtyards. Most are laid out in a quadrangle, although Morse and Ezra Stiles are irregularly organized. They are gated and usually closed to the public. Each college contains a dining hall, which students from any college are permitted to use, and extracurricular facilities. Every college also features commons room, classrooms, a library, and a small gym; other facilities, which vary from college to college, include chapels, printing presses, squash courts, game parlors, basketball courts, pottery rooms, music rooms, short-order kitchens (known as "Butteries"), and darkrooms.
Unlike traditional college dormitories, residences in the colleges are arranged in suites, consisting of a common room and bedrooms for two to six students. Many of the colleges also have larger student suites, which are used to host parties and events. Most sophomores and seniors live in the colleges, along with many juniors, though some are placed in annex housing throughout the campus.
Architects and artisans
With eight designed by the same architect, James Gamble Rogers, the colleges exhibit strong stylistic harmony. Rogers' primary architectural motif was Collegiate Gothic, a derivative of Gothic Revival that imitated the Gothic quadrangles of Cambridge and Oxford colleges. Rogers had previously designed the Memorial Quadrangle as a Gothic dormitory, which was renovated to become Branford and Saybrook Colleges. Similarly, Rogers framed the Jonathan Edwards College quadrangle with existing buildings. Rogers' Gothic buildings at Yale made extensive use of granite masonry and ornament. A small group of artisans—including blacksmith Samuel Yellin and sculptor Lee Lawrie—executed most of the buildings' elaborate details. Georgian was the primary style of two of Rogers' colleges, Pierson and Davenport, though Davenport has a street-facing Gothic facade. His final college, Timothy Dwight, was Federal, a reference to the prevailing style in American colonial colleges.
Two of the pre-war colleges were designed by other architects. Calhoun College, by John Russell Pope, employed Rogers' Gothic style with greater emphasis on brick materials. Silliman College, assembled from existing facilities of the Sheffield Scientific School by Eggers & Higgins, is an amalgamation of Gothic Revival, French Renaissance, and Georgian. Constructed 30 years later, Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges were conceived by Eero Saarinen, a mid-century modernist architect, as angular reinventions of the Tuscan village.
Programs and traditions
Although primarily residential centers, the colleges are also intended to be hubs of intellectual life. Since the colleges' opening, masters have regularly hosted Master's Teas, conversations with distinguished guests open to undergraduates and fellows of the colleges. In addition, the colleges each support a seminar program, where students and fellows select scholars to lead specialized coursework for credit in Yale College.
Fellows of the colleges support the college's freshman advising programs. Each fellowship also organizes a formal weekly dinner for its members, usually held in a private common room for faculty members. Upperclassmen are often invited to join the fellows for conversation and presentations.
Seniors in the colleges participate in a series of weekly dinner presentations known as the Mellon Forum, where classmates present senior thesis research. These projects are often advised by graduate affiliates and fellows in the college. The program is named for Paul Mellon, whose Old Dominion Foundation endowed a number of academic programs for the college system.
While intramural sports have been played at Yale since the nineteenth century, the advent of the college system introduced formal intramural competition. The annual, student-run program includes several dozen events, including soccer, basketball, softball, cross country, water polo, bowling, golf, and table tennis. In addition to undergraduates, fellows and the families of the masters and deans are also eligible to play. Hundreds of matches are played each year between the colleges, and the most winning college across all events receives the Tyng Cup. Every year during the Harvard–Yale Game, two winning intramural teams face off against their Harvard counterparts for the Harkness Cup.
As recently as the 1980s, every residential college possessed letterpress shops in order to print announcements, posters, stationery, and menus, projects now dominated by digital printing. Many of the colleges' presses were inherited from major printing studios. Three shops remain, and only those in Jonathan Edwards and Davenport College are still in frequent use. Printing arts are still taught through college seminars, and the remaining shops are managed by students with assistance from master printers.
Introduced in 1954, Bladderball was an annual inter-college competition traditional held before the Yale–Dartmouth football game. Organizers would release a large canvas ball on Old Campus, and thousands of students would attempt to route the ball to their college courtyard, sometimes popping it in the attempt. Deemed anarchic and dangerous, the game was banned by the Dean's Office in 1982 and only briefly resurfaced in 2009.
Fellowships and awards
In addition to Master's Teas, several of the colleges have independent endowments to invite speakers and guest lecturers to present to the college and interact with its students and faculty. Among the most notable are the Tetelman Fellowship, awarded semi-annually by Jonathan Edwards College to a person distinguished in science, and the Chubb Fellowship, awarded several times each semester by Timothy Dwight College to distinguished politicians, writers, and scholars. Both these fellowships are offered by the college master and involve a public address followed by a private reception, seminar, or dinner with members of the college. Past Tetelman Fellows include James Watson, Murray Gell-Mann, Ben Carson, and the Dalai Lama. Past Chubb Fellows include Aung San Suu Kyi, Chinua Achebe, George H.W. Bush, Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Lewis Mumford.
The colleges hold funds for student research and performing arts projects. Two of the richest are the Bates Fellowship, given by the Jonathan Edwards College faculty fellowship to students conducting senior thesis research, and the Sudler Awards, given for performing arts projects each semester. Students may also apply for post-graduate fellowships for a year of study or travel.
Several kinds of awards are given to students by the colleges. For all undergraduates, annual competitions are held for oratory, book collection, translation, and essay writing. At the discretion of the Council of Masters, juniors may receive awards for leadership, scholarship, or service. At graduation, seniors in each college may receive prizes for their senior thesis, college or extracurricular leadership, or distinction in scholarship, arts or athletics. Although these prizes varied in wealth depending on their original endowment, in 2010 all undergraduate prizes were capped at $1,000, with the excess awarded as financial aid, and the administration began discouraging the establishment of new prize funds by alumni. An investigation of the prize caps by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal found no violation of donor intent.
Associations with American slavery
Nine of the fourteen colleges are named after American slaveowners, a fact to which some Yale students and faculty have objected. Particularly controversial is the legacy of John C. Calhoun, namesake of Calhoun College, who was a leading slavery apologist and secessionist in Congress before the American Civil War. Calhoun represented for slightly over three decades the slave-holding state of South Carolina in Congress. Arguments for renaming Calhoun college in particular have been made since the early 1990s, with greater force and additional emphasis on other slaveowner-named colleges after a 2001 report on Yale's commemoration of slaveowners. In 2009, a student group protested the connection by posting alternative names for slaveowner-named colleges near the college entrances.
In the 2015–16 school year, the colleges' relation to slavery and racial oppression received heavy attention. In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, Calhoun College received particular attention as one of several American institutions named for the white supremacist Vice President. Simultaneously, the word "master", a title borrowed from the UK collegiate tradition but also a synonym for "slaveowner" in the U.S., received scrutiny at several U.S. universities. In April 2016, Yale followed Harvard and MIT in changing the appellation of "Master" to "Head of College," but declined to rename Calhoun College. The same decision announced Benjamin Franklin, also a slaveowner, as the namesake of one of two new colleges.
In addition to these titular connections, two of the colleges, Pierson and Timothy Dwight, have strong architectural associations to slavery. Timothy Dwight, a Georgian Revival structure, was influenced by Southern plantation architecture. Although the name has fallen out of use, a secluded courtyard in Pierson was known widely as the "Slave Quarters" for its Southern-style house-like buildings adjacent to the college's main courtyard. Until 1960, Pierson students were referred to collectively as "Slaves." In Branford and Calhoun Colleges, stained-glass windows depicting scenes of African American slavery were displayed prominently and have since been removed.
List of residential colleges
|Berkeley College||1934||The Rev. George Berkeley||450||Collegiate Gothic|
|Branford College||1933||Branford, Connecticut||461||Collegiate Gothic|
|Calhoun College*||1933||John C. Calhoun||425||Collegiate Gothic|
|Davenport College||1933||John Davenport||477||Collegiate Gothic, Georgian|
|Ezra Stiles College||1961||Ezra Stiles||478||Modernist|
|Jonathan Edwards College||1933||Jonathan Edwards||427||Gothic Revival|
|Franklin College||2017 (expected)||Benjamin Franklin||Collegiate Gothic|
|Morse College||1961||Samuel Morse||471||Modernist|
|Pauli Murray College||2017 (expected)||Pauli Murray||Collegiate Gothic|
|Pierson College||1933||Abraham Pierson||496||Georgian|
|Saybrook College||1933||Old Saybrook, Connecticut||484||Collegiate Gothic|
|Silliman College||1940||Benjamin Silliman||456||Gothic Revival, French Renaissance, Georgian|
|Timothy Dwight College||1935||Timothy Dwight IV and Timothy Dwight V||399||Federal|
|Trumbull College||1933||Jonathan Trumbull||390||Collegiate Gothic|
* Calhoun College will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper on July 1, 2017.
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