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Learning to love the swing dorm (Dec. 1999)

Like many Yale students, I’ve always prided myself on my residential college spirit. I adore Branford’s courtyard (the most beautiful in America, according to Robert Frost) and stand by the college’s flag at football games. Since my first days of freshman year, I’ve been an enthusiastic Branfordian.

I still am, of course. The Branford love is still there. But, sadly, Branford isn’t.

One November day last year, the realization suddenly came upon me that, since Branford would be under renovation during my sophomore year, I wouldn’t be living there. Instead of moving from the Old Campus to my college, I would be setting up camp in the Tower Parkway “swing space,” a building that Berkeleyites (last year’s residents) christened “Boyd Hall.” As in “Boy’d we get [treated unfairly].”

I went to investigate.

My immediate complaints about the situation, in summary: 1) Location, location, location. That is, of course, unless proximity to the local power plant and Grove Street Cemetery is a priority. Sure, Payne Whitney Gymnasium is right across the street. Heaven forbid that I have to walk any distance in order to work out.

2) Aesthetics. The swing space boasts a low-budget shopping mall exterior, generic white halls, and a decorating scheme of maddening geometric patterns and primary colors—a far cry from Frost’s favorite courtyard. Oh, the injustice. I cursed the Yale renovation gods and gave up my sophomore year for lost.

But somewhere around day three of this doomed academic year, as we settled into our suites, which feature kitchenettes and their own bathrooms, I began to soften. I realized that there is something to be said for air conditioning. And functional plumbing, and overhead lighting.

And instant pancakes. By the end of week one, my suite had discovered the just-add-water Aunt Jemima mix, easily made on our mini-stoves, and were serving up enough flapjacks to keep us fed until the dining halls actually opened. Throw in an unlimited number of legal kitchen appliances (Blender! Coffee maker! Popcorn popper!), and life at old Boyd began to seem downright luxurious.

Admittedly, I miss several aspects of having a “real” college. While we appreciate the special section of Commons that has been carved out for Branford residents, it would be nice to have our own dining hall. The same goes for a library and music practice rooms. But really, we Branfordians have nothing to whine about. We receive two of Yale’s rarest commodities—sympathy and modern conveniences. We get a year of unlimited popcorn-popping in our well-lit, primary-colored suites.

And come next summer, we’ll be back eating dining hall food in our newly renovated, most beautiful of courtyards. So I tell my friends to make all the Holiday Inn jokes they want. I let them gripe about having to walk all the way over to the Swing Space to visit me, and tolerate their prods about annexed-housing life. And then I remind them  where their next pancake is coming from.

Frances Brown ’02 is a sophomore from Washington, D.C. This column is adapted from one she wrote for the Yale Daily News.

Filed under residential colleges, renovations, buildings, 1990s
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