Yale College Residential Requirement Upheld by Court

Yale University officials today said they were pleased that a federal court had dismissed a civil suit filed by four students who contested the University’s requirement that undergraduates live on campus.

“We are extremely pleased that the court has dismissed this suit,” said Dorothy K. Robinson, Vice President and General Counsel. “Yale College’s residential requirement is premised on an educational philosophy which values bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in vibrant communities. Yale’s rule does not conflict with any legal requirement.” The suit against Yale was filed in October 1997 by four Orthodox Jewish students who claimed that Yale’s denial of their request to live off campus interfered with their ability to practice their religion.

To ensure that all students experience residential college life, Yale requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus unless they are married or over 21 years of age. The four students who filed the lawsuit sought but were denied a waiver of the residency requirement. Yale had offered to provide them same-sex living arrangements on campus.

“I am pleased that our students will continue to experience a Yale College with all the opportunities for interaction that residential college life provides,” Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said of the court’s finding. “The residential college system gives students a chance to live as members of a community; to have daily contact with representatives of every part of our world; and to work together to realize the best possibilities of associated life.”

Every freshman undergraduate at Yale is assigned to one of twelve residential colleges. In assigning students to a college, Yale tries to create a microcosm of the entire student population. Each college reflects the diversity of the 5,200-member undergraduate student population, bringing together people who otherwise might never meet. Unlike a system in which students choose a residential unit, and may divide themselves according to background or interests, Yale’s system provides integration and inclusiveness. The University attempts to accommodate its diverse student body in ways consistent with the broad goals of the residential college system. For example, Jewish students may take their meals from a kosher kitchen operated by the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

The residential colleges offer the intimacy and support of a small school within a large research university. The colleges are home to small communities where students live, eat, socialize, and pursue academic and extracurricular activities. Each college has its own master and dean who live in the college, and a dining hall, library, computer rooms, and a variety of other facilities, such as fitness areas and print shops.

One of the benefits of living in the residential colleges is interaction with Yale faculty. The college masters and deans are faculty members, and other faculty members become “fellows” of the various colleges and may eat with students, conduct seminars, join intramural teams and even live in the colleges.

Although only freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus, more than 70 percent of juniors and seniors choose to remain in the residential colleges.

Yale’s motion to dismiss the civil suit was granted July 31 in Hartford, Conn. by Chief United States District Judge Alfred V. Covello of the United States District Court of Connecticut. In his opinion, Judge Covello dismissed a claim that Yale’s residential policies violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to free exercise of religion, as well as claims that Yale was in violation of federal housing and antitrust statutes.

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Media Contact

Tom Conroy: tom.conroy@yale.edu, 203-432-1345