Dinner crowding leads to exclusion



Annette Tracey is not a bouncer at a club. But as a dining hall worker in Berkeley College, she is the next closest thing.

Swiping ID cards at the exclusive, all-organic dining hall, she frequently finds herself turning away hordes of Yalies anxious to get a seat within the refectory’s walls. They beg and they bargain, but Tracey must turn most of them away.

“The problem is that Berkeley students come in and can’t find seats,” Tracey said as she swiped cards Monday night.

A line of unwitting non-Berkeleyites extended out the door and down the hall, not one of them likely to gain entrance according to Berkeley’s stringent transfer policy, which allows only 50 transfer students at dinner.

Ever since Berkeley’s renovation in 1999 and especially since its transition to all-organic last year, the dining hall has been known for limiting students from other colleges from tasting its farm-fresh squash and hand-made pizzas. But Berkeley is not the only college taking proactive measures to ensure its dining hall is not swamped by unfamiliar faces at meal-times. Branford and Saybrook Colleges both have transfer policies, and Pierson will enact one within the next few weeks. Trumbull and Calhoun Colleges are considering the option, as well.

“It’s so hard, this is the last thing I want to do,” Director of Sustainable Foods at Berkeley John Turenne said. “But as bad as it is for me to turn people away, it’s worse for them to come and have no food.”

Berkeley, which allows 10 un-hosted transfers and 15 hosted transfers from 5 to 6 p.m. and the same from 6 to 7 p.m., recently increased the number of transfers every hour by five per hour. Its policy is the same during lunch hours.

Turenne said a transfer policy was introduced simply because the dining hall has limited seating, and, with its labor-intensive food, can serve a maximum of 400 meals. The new transfer regulations, which spread out transfers over the whole meal period, are designed to make admittance as fair as possible, he said.

Despite the new policy, arriving promptly at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. remains the best bet to get into Berkeley. On Monday night only 15 minutes after the dining hall had opened, Tracey said she had already turned away roughly 50 transfers.

Adam Varner ’07 and Timothy Andres ’07 were two of the unlucky migrant diners Tracey told to forage for food elsewhere on campus. With their own dining hall in Timothy Dwight College closed due to a flood, Varner and Andres had hoped to talk their way into the dining hall.

“I snuck in the back way once,” Andres said as his group of friends turned dejectedly away from the Berkeley cafeteria. “The ID lady — she knows who comes.”

In fact, Tracey has been immortalized in lyric by the undergraduate rap group The Sky Beneath whose song “BK2Night” complains of Berkeley’s restrictions: “And when it all boils down you gonna find in the end / Ya meal’s on a plan, but Annette ain’t paid to be ya friend.”

If Varner and Andres went looking for another dining hall after being rejected from Berkeley Monday, they weren’t likely to find refuge in Branford or Saybrook. Both colleges, popular in part because they are renovated, have a limit of one transfer per resident from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Only Davenporters, who have no dining hall of their own this year because their college is under renovation, are exempted from this rule.

At most colleges that choose to enact a transfer policy, the decision originates in the college council, where students voice their concerns about over-crowded cafeterias.

Saybrook College Council President Annemarie Baltay ’05 said the council passed its current transfer policy last week after council members became concerned with the number of students eating there every day. The dining hall, one of the smallest on campus, draws many students in part due to its central location and kitchen’s grill.

“It just gets ridiculously crowded,” Baltay said. “You go in at 6, 6:30 and there would be no plates, no glasses, no food. … We’re still trying to meet the Saybrook freshmen.”

For students used to dining outside their own colleges, the multiplying restrictions seem to be a curtailment of the dining freedom previously guaranteed by the residential college system. In fact, the Yale University Dining Services still advertises a multiplicity of dining options. On its Web site, Dining Services promises, “As many meals as you want, whenever you want, where ever you want” as part of the unlimited meal plan, and “as much as you want in any of the residential dining rooms” in the full meal plan.

Veronica Wallace ’07, a Jonathan Edwards College resident who said she eats in TD, Saybrook, Calhoun and Pierson, said she thinks part of the problem is that food quality is not consistent among dining halls.

Soon, Wallace may no longer be able to eat regularly at Pierson. Nearly 500 students squeezed in every day last week for dinner at the newly renovated dining hall, Pierson College Council member Al Jiwa ’06 said. In response, Pierson’s council has adopted the same restrictions as Branford and Saybrook. The restrictions will begin once Pierson students have “Pierson” stickers for their IDs, Jiwa said.

Even the councils of non-renovated colleges like Calhoun and Trumbull, which receive Cross-Campus traffic at lunchtime, are also considering transfer policies. At Trumbull, the council is divided on the notion of a transfer policy, College Council Vice-President Lisa Chan ’06 said.

“We’ve heard some students have difficulty eating at other colleges,” she said. “It would help if they were able to get into their own dining hall.”

Trumbull student Whytne Brooks ’07 said she used to frequent Berkeley and this year has been eating at Pierson.

“I feel like the whole point of residential system is that you should be able to [taste] all of that without feeling like a second-class citizen,” Brooks said. “Its a double-edged sword, I guess.”

Comments