Light & Verity

An overhaul for the Hall of Graduate Studies

A parking lot will become student housing, and HGS will be reimagined

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An apartment building for graduate students will replace this parking lot on Elm Street near York. View full image

Lecturer Karen Foster ’76PhD first came to Yale as a graduate student in the fall of 1971. The Hall of Graduate Studies (HGS) hasn’t changed much since then. Walking down the third-floor hallway to her office in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, she says, feels a bit like being in a “time warp.”

HGS, a complex of offices, classrooms, dormitory rooms, and common spaces, is the central hub of Yale’s Graduate School, whose students and professors work in far-flung departments all over the campus. Unlike nearly all of the buildings of Yale’s central campus, HGS has not seen a complete renovation since it was built—in 1932. But in a January 15 e-mail to the campus community, Yale provost Ben Polak announced that the building will receive an overhaul beginning in 2017.

That means that denizens of HGS will no longer have to put up with the building’s erratic lighting, inconsistent heating, and strange smells. But the building will be changing in other ways, too: most notably, the dining hall and 168 dormitory beds will be eliminated.

Polak said in his e-mail that renovating student rooms in HGS is not feasible. “There is no way to renovate the Hall of Graduate Studies to meet current student expectations for housing or to meet current construction requirements for residential use without exorbitant expense,” he wrote.

To help compensate for the loss of the housing, the university will construct a new building for graduate and professional students on Elm Street in the Broadway area. The six-story building will provide 41 two-bedroom apartments, with kitchens, atop two floors of retail space.

A committee is still working on just how the reclaimed dining hall and dormitory space in HGS will be used. Polak wrote in his e-mail that one idea under consideration is to “transform HGS into a central home for the humanities at Yale,” bringing together currently scattered departments.

Joori Park ’17PhD, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly, says that students are concerned that eliminating housing from HGS could amount to losing a “home base” where graduate students can congregate. She also says humanities departments are unsure if they want to move from their current space to HGS. Graduate School dean Lynn Cooley says that she and other administrators will work to find new space for graduate student life, and that since renovations on HGS will not begin for over two years, they have ample time for planning. She adds that the McDougal Common Room and the Blue Dog Café will remain.

“HGS allowed for everything to happen,” says Park. “It was a residential space, it was an academic space, it was a social space. It’s not just where students sleep; it’s a place where graduate students can build a community.”

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