Thursday, December 1, 2022

“West Wing” to be NUS College Designation for Portion of Yale-NUS Campus Used; No Renaming Plans until 2025: Roberts

Story | Avery (she/her), Staff Reporter

Photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him)

NUS College plans to designate the parts of its community using the Yale-NUS campus the “West Wing,” in contrast to “Cinnamon Wing” at the current Cinnamon College.

In response to student fears, Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) Joanne Roberts affirmed that Yale-NUS has no plans to adopt the designation or to alter signage around campus.

“West Wing” Designation Sparks Student Fears of Erasure

The term “West Wing” was first used in an email on March 4 addressed to University Scholars Programme (USP) students about housing arrangements. 

In the email, USP students—who will be considered NUS College students from August—were asked to choose between rooms in the “Cinnamon Wing,” and the “West Wing,” which it clarified was “located in Yale-NUS.” The email also revealed NUS College would house about 120 students in the Yale-NUS campus, and occupy consecutive floors sharing a single sky garden to facilitate community building.

The discovery was met with immediate anxiety from students that NUS may be erasing aspects of the Yale-NUS identity by renaming its campus even before the College’s closure in 2025. Compounding the criticism was signage used for NUS’s Open House on March 5. No mention was made of either USP or Yale-NUS, despite tours scheduled around Cinnamon College and the Yale-NUS campus on which students still live and learn.

Yale-NUS students were informed on March 10 that current USP students would be moving into the Yale-NUS campus, in an email regarding the annual Room Draw by the Student Affairs Office.

In correspondence with The Octant, NUS College Vice Dean (Residential Life) Eleanor Wong explained that “West Wing” is an internal designation specific to NUS College.

“The term West Wing will be used to refer to the community of NUS College staff and students residing on YNC premises,” Ms Wong elaborated, “Like the Cinnamon Wing, the West Wing will have its own Master, Residential Fellows, Residential Assistants and other staff.”

When asked about the departure from the Residential Colleges system, Wong responded, “since NUS College is already a ‘college’, we thought it might be less confusing to name the two residential communities under the umbrella ‘wings’.”

She also disclosed that NUS College has not yet discussed whether to split the “West Wing” into the equivalent of Residential Colleges once there are enough students, stressing that she only has information on the first year of operations.

“For some issues, we may still be exploring several different options,” Wong wrote over email, “for other issues, it would be prudent to review on a periodic basis before we decide next steps such as after we’ve had a chance to experience our first year together.”

No Plan to Adopt Name: Roberts

Correspondence with Dr Roberts revealed there are no plans by the Yale-NUS administration to use the West Wing name in any way. 

“We have no intention of using [‘West Wing’],” Roberts affirmed over email, “until 2025, we will refer to the buildings as we do now and all our signage will remain.” 

“I suspect that new NUSC students living on our campus will begin to use the terms we do to refer to our joint spaces,” she added. 

Partly corroborating this claim, Wong explained that “as the YNC premises will continue (at least certainly in the first year) to be run by the YNC facilities management team, we would likely defer to YNC’s Infrastructure Team as to whether it is feasible/necessary to change any major signs.” 

This came even as both administrators agreed minor concessions could be negotiated on physical signage around campus. Roberts suggested “we should agree to add a few signs to assist” NUS College, such as directions to Cinnamon College or to NUS College offices, while Wong mentioned the possibility of “asking for some flexibility to be able to sign-post as ‘NUS College West Wing’” floors assigned to them. 

Some interviewed are unconvinced by the arrangement. Luca ‘25 argued that “the use of the term ‘West Wing’ creates a complete feeling of separation from Yale-NUS.”

As NUS College grows, “it creates a constant awareness and doom in the last batch of YNC students, knowing the school we grew and love is dying,” they elaborated.

Separately, Dean of Students Dave Stanfield told The Octant the floors in current Yale-NUS Residential Colleges that were allocated to NUS College students were chosen after considering Yale-NUS student preferences, in consultation with Student Government and with reference to housing survey results.

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