Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Changes in Residential College Model Likely; Report to be Published for Consultation: Stanfield

Story | Avery (she/her), Editor-in-Chief; Suman (she/they), Managing Editor

Photo | Raphael Hugh (he/him)

Yale-NUS will likely reduce the number of residential colleges from Academic Year 2023/2024, Dave Stanfield, Vice President (Campus Life), revealed in an August 25 interview with The Octant.

According to Dr. Stanfield, the College administration is considering these changes as part of a “sustainable staffing plan,” as it grapples with maintaining community in the face of dwindling student numbers. Detailed proposals will be put forward for consultation by the student body later in September, according to the Yale-NUS Student Government (StuGov) in an August 28 statement.

Two Residential Colleges Proposed

Current plans see the 500-strong Yale-NUS student body housed in two residential colleges come AY23/24, Stanfield confirmed.

“We are coming up with a sustainable staffing plan for the next two years, one that may involve consolidation,” Stanfield said, “if students are spread out across three residential colleges, we won’t be able to provide the best experience for them.”

He also confirmed that Prof. Neil Clarke had been given a one-year contract to serve as the Rector of Cendana College. After Prof. Clarke’s contract expires in AY23/24, Yale-NUS College will be served by two Rectors and three Assistant Deans. 

However, details on what actions will be taken remain under deliberation, Stanfield said, denying rumors that the decision had been taken to shut down Cendana College.

“An RC is not just physical spaces but includes ADs, Rectors, and staff” he said, “How will we deploy them? If we won’t have three RCs, how will the students be grouped? There are all sorts of questions we are trying to think through carefully.”

“There are many logistical challenges that must be considered and we haven’t made a decision.”

Stanfield also pointed to the need to maintain a cohesive community as the College size shrinks, citing student feedback that it is important to stay physically close together.

“What’s an RC with 70 people? There’s no economy of scale to achieve a similar type of community.”

Stanfield did not divulge the identities of students he consulted, remarking only they were “informal in nature.” In an interview with The Octant, Vice-President (Campus Life) of StuGov Tang Jia Wen ‘25 said she could not support any particular arrangement.

“We can’t have a stand without knowing what everyone wants,” Tang said, “we’ve recommended the Student Affairs Office to quickly put out a list of pros and cons, so students can be more informed and we can advocate accordingly.”

Plans to be Put to Student Body; Retention of Three-College Model Unlikely

The Student Affairs Office (SAO) plans to publish a report on the future of the Residential College system on a future date, once it has finalized its proposed arrangement. 

In its statement, StuGov also announced that “students will be invited to discuss the proposed recommendations” following their publication.

The SAO remains “flexible” on what format these consultations will take, said Stanfield. “We want to provide a starting point for discussions by sharing a set of recommendations, so while it is not top-down, there are clear benefits to using a structured process that includes multiple opportunities for student input.”

Tang also urged students to approach StuGov with feedback on possible consultation formats.

“Ultimately, [we and the SAO] are working towards the same goal of preserving student experience,” she said, “but it is important for us to voice out feedback and align SAO’s proposals with what students want”

However, the retention of the three-college system is unlikely, even if it gathers significant popular support.

“I understand students have their feelings and desires, and we are trying to take a thoughtful approach,” Stanfield said, “but for a number of reasons it will be logistically challenging to maintain three RCs.”

He also acknowledged the importance of the residential colleges to the Yale-NUS experience, and committed to maintaining a “Kingfisher spirit” across the final years of the College.

“We’ve worked hard to build RC spirit and that makes these decisions difficult, but I hope we can focus on being one Yale-NUS together.”

This may not be the only way in which the student experience is affected, as Yale-NUS moves into its final two years. When asked about the future of student organizations given a decline in student population, Stanfield said the SAO did not yet have a “perfect answer,” though expanding to the wider NUS could be a partial solution.

“We are looking forward to working with students on creative solutions,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of the article quoted Dave Stanfield as saying it was “impossible” to maintain three RCs; in fact, he said it would be “challenging.” We have since made the clarifications in the article.

Want to tell us how you feel about the future of the residential colleges? Have other thoughts on the story? Write to our Letters to the Editor column here.

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