By the Time You Read This with Maude and Dory: Science Hill

On Tuesday, newly minted Yale President Tony Thompson (BK ’26) sent an email to the student body outlining the administration’s plans to improve student life at Yale. 

Thompson wrote, “We here at Yale want students, parents, and faculty to know that we have heard your opinions on Science Hill and we are listening. After several weeks of deliberation, the administration has developed a plan that we think will satisfy all parties involved.”

“Yale is committed to protecting the health and safety of our students. By 2035, we will have reduced Science Hill’s height by 26 feet. We feel this is the best way to help our students reduce the physical stress of attending classes while keeping science classrooms in their current locations.” 

President Thompson’s statement references several possible reasons for this bold move. Science Hill has recently come under fire by parents and students alike due to an unfortunate accident that befell first year Maria Butler (ES ’25) last April. Butler was blissfully scootering down Prospect Street, returning to Old Campus after a 9:25 a.m. physics lecture. A sudden gust of wind caused her to accelerate uncontrollably, increasing her downhill velocity. When her scooter hit a pothole, she was flung bodily into the center of the Sachem and Prospect intersection, where she died gruesomely in front of a cohort of students on their way to a large 10:30 a.m. ichthyology lecture. A few of the first years present during Maria’s death batted an eye, having already witnessed graphic violence during their post-pre-orientation programs (for more information, please see our previous column).

Charles Burmin II (JE ’86), a significant Yale donor, told the Herald that the Facebook group for alumni in his class year has long been clamoring for the removal of Science Hill. He told the Herald, “My son, Charles Burmin III has to climb that hill every other day to get to microbiology. He has called me every Tuesday and Thursday since the start of the semester, sobbing, because of this hill. It is hurting my Charlie, and it is hurting my assistant, who takes calls for me. Something must be done.”

A 2021 Herald survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of students listed Science Hill among the top three aspects of campus life which impair their mental health. The Yale administration—then headed by former President Peter Salovey—declined to comment or act.

In Tuesday’s email, President Thompson explained that 2 feet of dirt would be removed from Science Hill each year during fall recess, lowering the hill from 150 feet above sea level to 124, and significantly easing the strain on the student body.

Later that evening, the administration released a list of locations allocated for the disposal of the dirt excavated from Science Hill. These include:

1. Filling the Cross Campus puddle.
2. Burying the archaeology department, as per the wishes of all current department faculty and a few outspoken student groups.
3. Constructing Humanities Mountain (location as yet undisclosed).
4. Waterproofing Bass Library.
5. Terraforming a bigger, better Yale off the coast of Long Wharf, tentatively christened “Yale 2.”
6. Dumping the dirt in a big pile on Old Campus for the first years to dig around in for enrichment purposes.

Reactions to the administration’s proposed plan have been overwhelmingly positive. Teri Patel (ES ’25), a close friend of Maria Butler, told the Herald, “I’m so happy that the administration is finally listening to us. I think this is what [Maria] would have wanted. She really, really hated the archaeology department.”

But of course, by the time you read this, everything might be different.

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