With no prior warning, at 2 p.m. on March 30th, The Yale Herald received an email from Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck telling us we need to vacate our offices in 305 Crown Street by May 22nd. Similar emails were sent to a number of student organizations by the Yale College Dean’s Office, including the Record, the Yale Political Union, and the Yale Student Environmental Coalition. The university plans to convert our offices, campus bastions of community and creativity, into––wait for it––storage space.
Their argument is based on a kindergarten-level concept of fairness: since there are over 500 student groups on campus, no individual organization should have their own office. Dean Peck writes, “Shifting the on-campus spaces to shared storage space will benefit many groups and remove the inequities that were often attached to the assigning of offices or meeting rooms to specific, often older, student organizations.” To address this grievous injustice, the Dean’s Office is generously granting every campus organization a single shelf in the hollowed-out corpses of our old offices to store their things. The Herald offices hold several filing cabinets’ worth of archives spanning five decades. Dean Peck invited us to email to the university archives to ask if they would take them. We maintain our archives for a reason: as stewards of our own institutional memory, we constantly reference physical copies of our past issues to inform the work we do now.
Dean Peck also proposed that, given the precedent set by Covid-era restrictions on in-person gathering, we could manage our publication over Zoom. We could also run the Herald out of classrooms we’d reserve on a week-to-week basis. We wonder how the Yale Alumni Magazine, which has schmancy office spaces right around the corner, would respond to a similar suggestion. (Somehow we doubt it would be made.)
These suggestions fail to recognize that the Herald offices are much more than a space to work. A physical presence on campus is essential to our mission and to our community. The Herald is an inclusive space: anyone interested in writing for or working with us can stop by the office any Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday and get to know us. The Herald and the Record are some of the only on-campus publications where you can show up any time and receive a warm welcome. Booting us from our offices just increases the cachet of wealthy organizations who own their own buildings, like the Yale Daily News, secret societies, and frats. It is absurd that property ownership could become a prerequisite to undergraduate art-making—on a college campus nominally committed to facilitating exactly that.
Moreover, the question of equity is an obvious misdirection. Yale University, which has more money than God, could find space elsewhere to install some shelving units. Maybe they could divide up the former Whitney Humanities Center—which has been almost entirely unused since the opening of the Humanities Quadrangle—into student offices. Our esteemed institution of higher learning might consider investing in student creativity and collaboration, rather than, say, a bar no one wants or uses in the basement of the Schwarzman Center. This decision to evict us and our peer organizations could be a death blow for student communities that are only just recovering from the difficulties of Covid. There’s nothing equitable about eliminating spaces of care and community in the name of relentless optimization.
This issue is about so much more than space. It is about the fact that this university is losing touch with its values. Spaces like our offices, existing both within and outside institutional spheres, are essential to a fulfilling undergraduate experience. Down the road, we will remember the Thursdays we spent working into the early hours of the morning on print layouts, laughing with friends at 305 Crown. For 37 years, the Herald offices have been a place where students gather each week to make a newspaper: to write, edit, draw, design, and find community. It is a place where many students have learned to write. For some, it’s the first place they feel valued as artists.
Careers have been forged and friendships have been formed here. More to the point, the Herald offers something valuable to this campus. We produce a print issue each week because we love doing it, not to burnish our resumes or to ascend some social hierarchy but to keep something beautiful alive. It is sometimes silly and sometimes serious and it is always completely student-directed. To edit and illustrate and lovingly lay out someone else’s work on the printed page is a momentary reprieve from the prevailing institutional culture of selfishness—a culture that’s blatantly on display in this cynical move by the Dean’s Office.
Unless we stand up to their decision, on May 22nd, crews of subcontractors will tear down the old covers from our walls. Watercolor paintings, political cartoons, and inside jokes from the early 2000s will be thrown in the trash. A community will be irreparably fractured. A place of great spirit will be sterilized.
We are deeply saddened by the Yale administration’s decision. If the university cared about undergraduate life and learning, it would change course.
Leo Egger & Josie Ingall
Editors-in-chief, Yale Herald