Oct. 9, 1997: Freshmen council petitions to open Vanderbilt gates

Just over a month into the school year, Freshmen Class Council representatives from Calhoun and Davenport Colleges are already on a mission: to convince Yale to open the padlocked Vanderbilt gates.

Calhoun FCC representative Charlie Edel ’01 began circulating a petition Saturday requesting that the University unlock the gate leading from Vanderbilt’s courtyard onto Chapel Street.

The petition is currently a joint effort among the four representatives from Davenport and Calhoun.

These representatives, with help from other students in the colleges, have been collecting signatures door to door in Vanderbilt — home to all Calhoun and Davenport freshmen.

Traditionally, the University padlocked the Vanderbilt gates because of security concerns, administrators said.

“In the past, the administration has discussed the security issues involved in opening the gates and decided that it is important for them to remain locked,” public affairs officer Cynthia Attwood said.

FCC members will present the petition to Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg.

FCC members have arrived at the alternatives to present to the dean.

“We can leave the gates completely open during the day and padlock them at night or we can install a key card box,” Davenport FCC representative Addisu Demissie ’01 said.

But administrators remain wary about implementing either of these suggestions.

“I feel very nervous about opening up those Chapel street gates,” Trachtenberg said. “I think it makes the Old Campus very vulnerable. There is laxness in terms of locking doors. Students tape locks so that people can get in and out easily and that worries me.”

And despite broad student support, some Vanderbilt residents have similar concerns about opening their courtyard to the heavily-traveled Chapel Street.

“Students think that opening the gates is a great idea, but not if it puts their safety in jeopardy,” said FCC representative Rob Doyle ’01.

“Right now we’re safe and sort of isolated,” said Jamie McGuire ’01. “It is inconvenient to go out Phelps gate if we just want to go to the Coop or Subway, but we are right on the edge of campus, so being secure is worth the inconvenience of having the Vanderbilt gates closed.”

This is not the first time students have petitioned to open the Vanderbilt gates. The University has turned them down several times before.

The FCC tried and failed to get the gates open last year.

“In general, the administration is really hard-nosed and they won’t budge on this issue,” former representative Kamran Ansari ’00 said. “They don’t want to worry about opening the gates and putting on extra security.”

Despite the administrative obstacles that await, students remain undeterred.

“This is an issue that has been on the minds of many Davenport freshmen since I’ve been elected,” Demissie said.

“Chapel street has a lot of establishments that students often use. Having the Vanderbilt gate open would be much more convenient for students.”

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