Hi! I'm a rising senior who was planning to apply SCEA to Yale. Now, I'm not too sure if I will, mainly because of two problems I just discovered:
1. The Yale administration has decreased its actual support of extracurricular groups. A recent article (REVESZ: Feudalism in the colleges | Yale Daily News) says that clubs must jump through hoops to reserve meeting space, eat together, etc. But what alarms me most of all is the unanimous response to the article; every commenter said that over the past few years, the restrictions on extracurriculars have gone from a mild annoyance to a serious issue.
2. On a related note, Family Nights prevent students of different colleges from eating together for Sunday dinners. How intrusive or bothersome is this policy?
It also sounds like the residential colleges are becoming more and more exclusive. My tour guide gave me the impression that every student could use the facilities of every residential college, but from what I've read, Yalies only have reliable access to their own college. The aforementioned Family Nights seem to divide the residential colleges even further. I thought that smaller communities within Yale would be wonderful so long as the stronger allegiance was to Yale as a whole...but it looks like the administration wants the residential college, not the entire university, to define students' experience.
What draws me to Yale is the energy and liveliness I felt on the campus, RCs (maybe not if they're indeed headed in a bad direction), the way the classes work, the opportunities, and the fact that it felt like home. So, current Yale students or recent alumni, could you shed light on my concerns? Are the problems I mentioned really harmful, or is Yale still worth it?
In no way whatsoever should Revesz's article deter you from applying to Yale. As much griping as you might see in the comment thread to that article, let me assure as a current student that my classmates love to gripe and complain about minor things. This is one of them. It should be apparent from an opening that mocks the Communist Manifesto that his style is a bit over the top and exaggerated. Yes, organizations need to sign up to use some spaces in the colleges. This is true. But you will find this is on the whole helpful. It's also annoying to find ten groups wanting to use the same space at once, or that you can't sit and read or meet with a friend in the common room because it is occupied. It's really not that hard to book space, and most groups have people in every college, so everyone has a foot in the door everywhere. Furthermore, there are lots of spaces outside of the colleges for students and groups to meet on campus. Many classroom buildings are open till midnight, for example.
I'm a member of an extracurricular organization that is a heavy user of space, and while there is the occasional hassle, we don't feel any oppressive yoke of "feudalism." I don't think it crimps our operations.
Regarding family nights: these are a good thing. Your RC is 400 people - you will find friends, and you should bond with them. If there is anything incorrect to do at Yale, it is to not make friends within your college. These are the people you live with for four years, and they oftentimes include friendships you wouldn't make otherwise. Your college is a support network you can come to outside of your extracurricular and class commitments, and family nights are a good way to touch base with them. Also, family night isn't super strictly enforced at some colleges (JE I think is one of them), and in a pinch or time crunch, you can oftentimes eat somewhere besides home. Additionally, if family night is really an imposition, there are many, many ways to eat off campus (or invite your friends over to make dinner in a college kitchen) and you and your friends can take the opportunity to explore.
Yale is not suffering from feudalism. If anything, it seems like residential college affiliations are less important now than they have been in the past. Some colleges are easier to get into with a key card than others, but at every college, you can stand at most for 30 seconds outside a door and somebody will come by and let you in (disclaimer: this might not work at 3AM; I haven't tried). Yale University will define your experience, and your college will enrich it.
If you see so much going for Yale, it will definitely still be worth it for you, and it definitely is still worth it to apply (and apply early at that).
I agree with the previous responses-- these are not huge issues. As much as the residential college system annoys me sometimes, I don't think it limits extracurricular meetings or friendly dinners horribly.
Yale is nothing but supportive of extracurriculars, in my experience. They THROW money at undergraduate groups, and any problems I've had getting spaces has been because of the glut of duplicate groups vying for the most desirable spaces. The worst case scenario is that you'll have the inconvenience of scheduling around other people (groups using the same spaces, people in specific residential colleges who can let you into unused spaces, etc.) or you'll have some meetings on the floor in someone's room (and if you're serious about the appeal of a school feeling like home, this is a plus.)
Large group dinners are more difficult now than they were when Commons was open, but not impossible, especially if you're willing to go to one of the colleges that tends to get less traffic (Saybrook is good for meetings) and make sure a couple people can get there before 5:30. Family dinners are obnoxious, but it is only once a week, and depending on your college it may be possible to sneak or guest swipe friends in pretty frequently.
The problem with residential college feudalism is the people's social scenes are variegated to a degree that RC policies don't recognize. A lot of Yalies I have spoken to feel that the administration tries to force residential college unity more than it develops naturally--which mostly has the negative effect of screwing over the people who don't happen to have that many friends in their own college. I think that's a minority of people, but it's still an issue.
re:a9b8c7: some groups are too big to fit in a suite's common room. The specific issue that Revesz is talking about is the use of college common rooms for extracurricular activities, on which there are stupid amounts of restrictions. That said, you are very right that most organizations get money thrown at them by the administration, which is a blessing.
Also, Family Nights suck and are terrible, but they are also only one night a week and if Slifka is open for Sunday night dinner this year you and all your friends can meet there!
But seriously, don't not come to Yale for this. Your reasons for wanting to come to Yale are all the right ones. My concerns with the administration's policies re:RC feudalism are the same as yours, but I am ridiculously happy at Yale and can't even remember what it felt like to want to be anywhere else. All institutions have their problems; while I wouldn't say that Yale's problems aren't important, there are so many wonderful things about it that I wouldn't give up for anything.
If you are expecting any university to be perfect and without problems, you are in for a big let down. If this issue is of such importance that it would keep you from applying to a college, I'm not sure that you would be happy anywhere. Sorry, but it seems very trivial relative to the whole of what your education is supposed to be about, even if true.
Here's how I'd phrase these "problems:"
1. The residential college system, which is (in my opinion) superior to the housing system at almost any other college, comes with a few costs, like Family Nights, and other efforts to promote college unity.
2. The Yale environment promotes so many different extracurricular groups that they sometimes have trouble finding places to meet.
Marita, when reading college newspaper articles in general (and not just YDN's) please keep in mind that they often use a style that aspires to be engaging by being a bit provocative, somewhat erudite, and obviously hyperbolic to its student readers. One effect of this, IMO, is that the readers are subconsciously lured into feeling that they are insiders sharing private community knowledge. The obviousness of the exaggeration, however, can be lost on those outside the campus community.
Marita, when reading college newspaper articles in general (and not just YDN's) please keep in mind that they often use a style that aspires to be engaging by being a bit provocative, somewhat erudite, and obviously hyperbolic to its student readers. The obviousness of the exaggeration, however, can be lost on those outside the campus community.
And people don't typically write articles or letters about things that are working OK.