Grad students seek to expand keycard access

Craig Gibson GRD ’08 is tired of loitering outside residential college gates waiting for a sympathetic undergraduate to swipe him in.

Gibson, the secretary of the Graduate Student Assembly, has been lobbying the Council of Masters to grant graduate students keycard access to the residential colleges, which would enable graduate students to use their meal plans in the undergraduate dining halls. Currently, graduate students living on campus are required to pay for meal plans, but Gibson said that these students have found it difficult to use their plans during the weekends, as the residential college dining halls are the only dining halls open on Saturdays and Sundays.

“If you look at the meal plan, you are eligible to use any of the dining halls on campus,” Gibson said. “That would be well and good, except graduate students can’t get into the undergraduate colleges to eat at the dining halls. It’s the kind of issue that should have been resolved.”

The GSA has been working on expanding access for nearly two years, said GSA chair Christopher Mason GRD ’07, but he said that it has reached a stalemate.

Mason said Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, the former dean of the graduate school, assured him that the Council of Masters was working on the keycard access issue, but the GSA has not heard of any progress.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler, who replaced Salovey as dean this summer, said the keycard issue is tied up in the larger campus-wide debate over dining hall transfers.

“It is probably being discussed with regard to a number of issues involving dining as a whole,” Butler said. “It’s one of several issues — transfers, restrictions — that are being discussed.”

In December, the Yale College Council passed a resolution to incrementally expand keycard access for undergraduates, but the resolution did not address graduate student concerns, YCC Vice President Chance Carlisle ’05 said. YCC Representative Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 said the council’s proposal would grant freshmen access to all Old Campus entryways, as well as upperclassmen access to their college’s affiliated freshman entryways.

The resolution passed despite some opposition in the YCC, which had in past terms rejected similar resolutions proposing expanded access, Carlisle said.

Carlisle, who voted against the resolution, said expanding keycard access would not stop students from opening doors to strangers and could increase the risk of vandalism, as students could enter other colleges at night. Such security concerns could hinder the implementation of any plan for universal access, he said.

“I don’t think it will ever materialize,” Carlisle said. “Everyone understands the issue, that you want to make it a more comfortable environment for students … but the security concerns just make it untenable.”

But Carlisle said expanding access for graduate students had raised concerns not of security but of overcrowded dining halls.

“We trust our graduate students just as much as we trust our undergraduates,” he said. “That’s more, I think, of a crowding issue.”

A few masters have been willing to allow graduate students access to their colleges after those students interview with the college’s master, Mason said. But Mason said that scheduling interviews with masters has been difficult, and many graduate students dislike being treated like “some kind of troublemaker.”

“It’s very unnerving because they feel like they’re being interviewed just to come to eat on a meal plan they bought into,” he said. “It’s to some degree demeaning, because you just want a bite to eat.”

Approximately 80 students – only those students living in the Hall of Graduate Studies or Helen Hadley Hall – need access. Some graduate students often gain access to the colleges by lingering outside the gates until someone lets them in. But Mason said that this task is particularly difficult on weekends, when there is little foot traffic.

While undergraduates’ keycards allow them to enter colleges, graduate students are left in the cold. Some grad students are seeking additional access so they can eat in the dining halls.
Ali Jones
While undergraduates’ keycards allow them to enter colleges, graduate students are left in the cold. Some grad students are seeking additional access so they can eat in the dining halls.

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