First students to be welcomed in two new residential colleges this week

The walkway between Benjaming Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges.
Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges will become home for nearly 800 students, including 293 first-year students.

Yale’s two new residential colleges are opening this year, beginning the expansion of Yale College from 5,400 undergraduates to 6,200. Yale College enrollment will increase by 200 students a year for four years, bringing the college’s population to an all-time high. The last significant growth of the college began with the admission of women in 1969.

The two new residential colleges, Pauli Murray College and Benjamin Franklin College, will each welcome first-year students and returning students who have opted to transfer to the colleges. Together, the colleges will be home to 293 first-year students and 468 students in their sophomore, junior, or senior years.

“Throughout Yale’s history, the university has endeavored to be accessible to talented and hardworking students, no matter their family circumstances,” said President Peter Salovey. “Our admissions and financial aid policies have long reflected this commitment. But our college is among the smallest of our peer schools, and I have long supported expanded access to undergraduate education by building two new residential colleges. The incoming class, with nearly 1,600 students, will be the largest in Yale College history. This is a 15% increase in class size. It is thrilling to think about educating 200 more undergraduates in each cohort!”

As with Yale’s 12 other residential colleges, the two new colleges will provide their students with the support and close-knit community of a small liberal arts college within a major research university. The student population of each residential college reflects the diversity of the overall undergraduate population, ensuring that students come to know classmates they might not otherwise meet during their time in college.

Students learn so much from each other outside the classroom, and the residential colleges provide a community in which students from different backgrounds and with different academic interests and talents come together to live and learn from each other throughout their Yale career,” said Yale College Dean Marvin Chun.

A stained-glass rendering of the new colleges.
A stained-glass rendering of the new colleges in Benjamin Franklin College.

Charles Bailyn, the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy„ and the first head of college for Benjamin Franklin College, said that he chose to attend Yale College, where he studied science and joined an a cappella singing group, because of the diversity of students he would encounter.

Inside the residential college, I mixed not only with the science majors and the other singing group members, but with athletes, with people who were involved in journalism, and classmates who were involved in politics,” he said. “And I saw how those people lived their lives and what their concerns were. And so there's a kind of diversity of interests that cuts across the diversity as we usually think of it in ethnic, racial, and gender terms. And I think both kinds of diversity are crucial to the Yale experience, and they all come together inside the residential colleges.”

Tina Lu, professor of East Asian languages and literature, and the first head of Pauli Murray College, said the residential colleges erase the line for students between learning and living.

Learning isn't taking place simply in classrooms,” she said. “Learning takes place in seminars that you attend inside the residential college, or you might attend a residential college tea with some very distinguished expert in some field that you know nothing about. You then go to the dining hall, where you talk about this experience with classmates that you might not otherwise have been friends with.”

Pauli Murray College has facilities and resources for other kinds of expression by students, Lu said, including a theater, a dance studio, and a space for digital filmmaking.

We even have a bike shop and we have a recent Yale graduate who's going to be teaching students basic maintenance of their bikes, and also helping students figure out how to integrate biking into their lifestyles,” she said.

Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander noted that it has been about a decade since the University acquired all the property it needed for the new colleges and began working with the City of New Haven on the necessary agreements that would allow the project to go forward.

We sat down and worked out an agreement by which the university would put into the project budget some additional funds for burying overhead utilities, upgrading the adjacent greenway canal recreational trail and nearby community park — in other words a number of public sector improvements that would benefit both the neighborhood and the university,” Alexander said. “The Board of Alders voted unanimously — all 30 members — to approve the development agreement to allow the two new colleges to go forward. So we were then able to begin in earnest to execute the development — which was a major design and construction management effort — of what has turned out to be these magnificent architectural additions to the Yale campus — and, most importantly, to make the precious resource of a Yale undergraduate education available each year to hundreds more students to provide leadership and service to society.”

The Bass Tower looms through a gateway.
A view of Bass Tower through a gateway.

Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin College were designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and carry forward the spirit of Yale’s existing residential colleges, which all have large dining halls, internal courtyards, and spaces for student activities. The last new residential colleges at Yale opened in 1962.

John Bollier, associate vice president for facilities, said the new colleges were constructed to achieve LEED Gold certification due to their energy efficiency and other sustainable characteristics, including geothermal heat pumps. They also meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Pauli Murray College and Benjamin Franklin College are adjacent to each other on nearly seven acres of property bound by Prospect Street, Sachem Street, and the Farmington  Canal Heritage Trail. Bailyn said the new colleges will tie the campus together, with the walkway running between them serving as a major pathway for students and faculty moving between Yale’s Science Hill and the more southern sections of Yale.

See a video and slideshow on the new colleges at the links below.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: While you were away: the summer’s top stories
Part of the In Focus Collection: Yale’s new residential colleges