Five colleges lack common room furniture, raising equality concerns

Yale Daily News

Some common spaces in residential college suites come complete with shelves, armchairs, and sofas.

Others get nothing. Five of the fourteen residential colleges — Berkeley, Davenport, Grace Hopper, Jonathan Edwards, and Pierson Colleges — do not provide students with common room furniture, which students living at those colleges say can be a heavy financial drain.

“All the expense and energy we expended on furniture is ridiculous considering this is a problem that not all colleges and students face, despite being charged the same room and board,” Davenport said -Student Nyakera Ogora ’24 the news.

Those five colleges are expected to receive common room furniture for their suites over the next two to three years, Morse College Principal Catherine Panter-Brick told the News. Panter-Brick is also Chair of the Council of the Heads of College.

In the past, Panter-Brick says, students at all colleges provided their own communal furniture and were given storage space for it during the summer. Panter-Brick said she wasn’t sure how administrators chose which colleges received common room furniture first.

Paul McKinley, senior associate dean of strategic initiatives and communications at Yale College, wrote to News that the furniture in all colleges will be paid for from the university’s budget for capital projects, adding that the long-term goal is to provide common room furniture to all student suites To make available . McKinley wrote that furniture was first assigned to the first years in the Old Campus and suites at Silliman and Timothy Dwight. Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray received common room furniture at their opening.

The initial move to provide furniture aimed to address “equity issues in the colleges,” according to Panter-Brick, who explained that each of the colleges had different summer storage options. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented all colleges from receiving furniture immediately, she said.

McKinley wrote that these disruptions were caused by how all construction was suspended in the summer of 2020 and supply chains collapsed. He also wrote that there were further complications in the original planning, as furniture had to be provided for the suites that housed first years in the four additional residential colleges, including Morse, Saybrook, Branford, and Davenport, in addition to Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray in the 2021-2022 school year.

“Many of the disruptions are now easing and the schedule is getting back on track,” McKinley wrote to the News.

The News spoke to seven students at the five colleges who don’t have communal furniture. Each expressed concern about the cost of acquiring, storing and moving their own facility.

For most students, the main issue with providing their own furniture was cost.

Ashley Reyes ’25, who is at Pierson, told the news that the lack of common room furniture was largely a financial issue as all but one of the members in her suite are low-income, first-generation students.

“Furniture is insanely expensive and just not something we considered,” Reyes told the News.

Reyes said she and her roommates bought used furniture but were unsure if it was sanitary. She also mentioned the time-consuming process of transporting furniture and limiting furniture to what fits in a car.

William Hin ’25, who also lives in Pierson, told the news that furnishing his suite was “definitely a financial drain.” Given the cost of transportation on top of the cost of the furniture itself, Hin said that sourcing furniture overall is “fees on top of fees on top of fees.”

Other students also agreed that buying furniture is an additional financial burden.

“As an FGLI student, I was concerned that I would not be able to contribute money to my suite’s furniture fund, but luckily my suite was very resourceful and found a way to avoid spending money on furniture,” Joanna Ruiz ’25, who is in Jonathan Edwards, wrote to the news.

Ruiz said her roommates found free furniture through various outlets such as Craigslist and salvaged items from a dumpster and borrowed a car to transport the furniture. However, Ruiz added that their suite was “very lucky” as trying to source furniture would have been a “greater burden” if they hadn’t lived on the first floor.

Ogora, who lives in Davenport, also wrote to the news that finding furniture and hauling it around is “very frustrating” and makes the relationship between students and their dorm “sour.”

Ellie Barlow ’25, who is in Grace Hopper, also found it difficult and expensive to buy furniture for her and her roommates.

“Even for buying at For Free and For Sale [on Facebook] is expensive and when you’re already paying a lot of fees it feels very unjustified to have to spend that much,” Barlow wrote to the News.

Karley Yung ’25, who lives in Berkeley, said her suite is still in the process of getting furniture, but they’ve had to take time over the summer and school year to find the furniture they have.

In addition to the cost of the furniture and the time it takes to move it, students also expressed frustration at the impact the policy is having on the social community within the colleges.

“It is particularly hypocritical that we should be expected to form bonds and friendships within our college in these common spaces, as without a comfortable common room with seating, it is almost impossible to do so,” Ogora wrote to the News.

Reyes agreed, adding that the different college decor “pushes” people away from suites with no furniture and “isolates students.”

Students also expressed concern about having to store their furniture, which Panter-Brick says was the reason for the move to provide furniture in the first place.

Berkeley College principal David Evans ’92 wrote to the News that he looks forward to furniture being made available at the college. Right now, Berkeley allows students to store a limited number of marked pieces of furniture in the following year’s suite, saving the expense of finding a storage spot.

Ari Essunfeld ’24, who is with Grace Hopper, described finding memory as “super difficult”.

Panter-Brick said colleges still need to consider storage of personal belongings as Yale-issued furniture becomes standardized across colleges, and explained that storage systems across colleges vary widely.

“That’s a big problem, especially in summer, when you take exams and then have to move out and then have to store your things,” says Panter-Brick.

The first seven residential colleges opened on September 25, 1933.

Sarah Cook

Sarah Cook reports on student politics and affairs, and she previously reported on President Salovey’s cabinet. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, she is a freshman at Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.


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