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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Collegiate Life and the Forgotten Graduate Students

— The first residential college systems in the United States were established in the 1930s at Harvard and Yale Universities, and though they were modeled on the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, they had an important founding flaw: they left out graduate students.

Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law student at Yale University, calls for this founding flaw to be remedied in “Interaction is part of university life” (Yale Daily News, 17 November 2003). The graduate divisions of Yale, he writes, “resemble medieval fortresses, self-sufficient and isolated from the outside world, occasionally deigning to exchange emissaries with neighboring duchies. I know no more than a handful of graduate students outside the Law School—and that is considered being well-connected by the standards of the Yale graduate community. If anything, the gulf between graduate and undergraduate students is even wider. The few graduate students who serve as RAs and TAs get to know undergrads, but many Law and Medicine and Management School students blithely spend years in New Haven without even setting foot in a residential college.”

The collegiate model, derived from Oxford and Cambridge and first realized in the United States at Yale and Harvard, is now spreading across the country. In recent years institutions as different as the University of Virginia, Truman State, Middlebury, Penn, Vanderbilt, and the University of Central Arkansas have established or have begun to plan residential college systems. Let us hope they do not inherit the founding flaw of the Yale and Harvard colleges, and do include all university members in their collegiate communities. And let us hope that both Yale and Harvard will, with the same boldness that established their residential colleges, find a way to offer the benefits of the collegiate way of living to all of their students, graduate and undergraduate alike.

For more notes on the value of including graduate students in residential colleges, see the Collegiate Way’s page on membership and administrative structure (section 1.3.4).

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021