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Reflections on The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs and Saga Courtyard

All PostsFeaturesReflections on The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs and Saga Courtyard

Story | Thomas Bean (they/them)

Image | Avery Huang (she/her)

I first planned and drafted The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs around 2 years ago after reading Jane Jacobs’ analysis of downtown spaces in an urban studies class. At the time, I discussed my observations about Yale-NUS courtyards with my close friends and found that many felt excited when theorising the relationships between the physical structures of the courtyard and the life that takes place within them, so I proceeded to pitch the article to The Octant and got it published. I had fun writing it as it was the first time I had ever taken such a strong stance on an issue and written such a polemical piece.

I have told my friends why I, a proud Sagan, dedicated a large part of the article to heavily criticise the physical structure of Saga Courtyard but I do not think my reasons are widely known. I intentionally wanted to give Saga the most space in the article as I loved it most amongst the three RCs. I wanted to inspire people to converse and dream about how we could transform Saga Courtyard so that it would become YNC’s indisputable best courtyard. To achieve this, I went as far as saying “For dramatic purposes, let us declare it (Saga Courtyard) dead.”  The most controversial line in the entire article, and one that I still find somewhat hilarious, definitely made Sagans and others in the YNC community laugh and offended a Sagan or two. Most importantly though, I think that line and the general passion conveyed through the article brought about a renewed appreciation for the courtyards. People read it, it sparked conversation and many discussed the article with me afterwards.

I did not expect the article to have the impact it did. Initially, I felt really happy when I heard that the Residential College offices and Dean of Students’ office were circulating the article around internally, reading it, and having meetings about it. In the following semesters after the Octant published the article, Saga Courtyard arguably hosted more events than the more central Elm Courtyard. This was made possible by the dedication of the Rector Khoo, AD Paul, the RLOs Tinesh and Gabriel, and the very enthusiastic first-year students that ran the Saga College Council. The Class of 25’ injected energy, enthusiasm, and spirit that Saga had never seen and made it livelier than ever. Many other factors, including the loosening of pandemic restrictions and Saga’s unique College Council structure, made the above possible but I like to think that the article I wrote had small part to play in rejuvenating Saga as a space and highlighting activity in the courtyard as core to an amazing RC experience.

I have since learnt that one cannot predict how people will take up one’s writing and the impact that has. I did not expect the closure of Yale-NUS when I wrote the paper nor the possibility that we would have to close an RC. While courtyard activity was far from the primary factor for deciding to retreat from Saga first, the committee deliberating on YNC’s housing plan for 2024 and 2025 considered it. They briefly mentioned their view in the report that Saga Courtyard received less regular use and I think the same article that sparked a positive change may have cemented the image of Saga Courtyard as the quietest. I regret that happened and have certainly learnt not to underestimate the impact one’s writing can have.

While we will seldom organise events in this space anymore, I hope that I and others will continue to use it. The landscaping, vegetation, topography, and ventilation of the courtyard make it a pleasant space to just hang out alone and reflect. Even if we cannot physically be there, we will retain some of our greatest memories of hanging out in the space with friends or watching movies on its slopes. For YNC’s best courtyard, let us declare it alive in our memories. Thriving. Forever.

T. K. Bean

Author of the The Death and Life of Great Halcyon RCs

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