Students selling T-shirts for the Harvard-Yale Game in the Woolsey Rotunda were asked to leave by Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith yesterday.
While sales and displays have always been prohibited out of respect for the area — the names of Yale war veterans who died in combat are engraved on the Rotunda’s walls — this is the first time in recent memory the University has chosen to enforce the policy, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year, Highsmith said. Some students said they thought the University’s actions were unnecessary, but others said they thought it was important to honor the space.
Highsmith said she approached the students because she received a number of complaints about the activity in the Rotunda.
“I was sorry to have to do it today, but the volume of misuse and the nature of the concerns that were expressed to me made it necessary to do that,” Highsmith said.
Highsmith approached the students between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. and told the groups they could not continue to sell the shirts in the Rotunda, said David Nitkin ’07, who was selling shirts for Bulldog Productions, an independent student film company. Most of the vendors then relocated outside of Commons Dining Hall to resume sales, which will continue until The Game.
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said she thinks it is inappropriate to sell items in the Rotunda.
“The Rotunda is a war memorial,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s not a suitable place for commerce. I don’t think we have a stated rule, but it’s understood that you don’t conduct business there.”
Use of the Rotunda is limited to events in Woolsey Hall such as New Haven Symphony Orchestra concerts, Highsmith said.
Amanda Wittenstein ’07, who was selling shirts on behalf of Community Health Educators, said the Rotunda’s status as a war memorial is not well-publicized, and she does not think Highsmith’s request was merited.
“I don’t think that since I’ve been at Yale anyone has ever pointed out that it is a memorial,” Wittenstein said. “I don’t think it’s disrespectful. I think it’s a great display of school spirit.”
Alex Callsen ’08 also said he thinks the University’s action was excessive.
“I think that the administration has gone a little overkill on their recent administrative policies that they are all of a sudden creating and enforcing without telling anybody that they are going to do it,” Callsen said.
But Nitkin said he agreed with Highsmith’s decision. The Rotunda had become increasingly crowded since last Tuesday, with close to a dozen groups selling there on Tuesday, he said.
“They felt that it was disrespectful to the war dead, which I understand,” Nitkin said. “The impression I got was that it was a respect thing, a decorum thing.”
A sign from the Office of the Secretary posted on columns in the rotunda said the space may not be used for a range of purposes.
“The sale of T-shirts and other items, solicitations, and displays are not permitted in the Rotunda or Memorial Space,” the sign said.