Dinner hours may expand

If the Yale College Council gets its way, students will be able to eat dinner in a residential college dining hall until 9 p.m. every night.

The YCC proposed keeping a different residential college dining hall open until 9 p.m. each week during a meeting with officials from Yale University Dining Services on Wednesday night. Although the plan is in its infancy, a YUDS official said the cost and logistical difficulties of keeping a college dining hall open late present formidable obstacles to the implementation of the proposal.

Logistical hurdles present a formidable obstacle to hungry Elis looking to swipe at a dining hall after 9 p.m.
Aileen Agricola
Logistical hurdles present a formidable obstacle to hungry Elis looking to swipe at a dining hall after 9 p.m.

Students interviewed said the current two-hour dinner period in the residential colleges does not adequately accommodate Yalies’ schedules, which are crammed with sports practices, jobs, classes and other activities.

Commons is currently open every weekday evening until 9 p.m., although hot food is not served after 8 p.m.

Despite the logistical hurdles, several students said they support the proposal. The students ­— who participate in a wide array of extracurricular activities and live in various residential colleges ­— said extending dinner hours would improve their quality of life.

Stefan Weijola ’11 said college students’ typical lifestyle does not make dinner between 5 and 7 p.m. feasible. Extending hours would make eating dinner easier, he said.

“I think it’s a spectacular idea,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy that I can’t get food past 7 when … on a weekday, I’d probably go to sleep around 1:30 or 2:00.”

For those heavily involved in a varsity sport or other commitments in the early evening, the benefits of longer dining hall hours would be immediate. Ariel Baker-Gibbs ’11, who rows crew, said she usually spends the same amount of time waiting in the line at Commons as she does actually eating her food.

Varsity tennis player Janet Kim ’09 said extending residential college dining hall hours would help alleviate the crowd in Commons after sports practices let out.

Some Yalies, though supportive of the YCC’s plan, also said there are benefits to eating dinner early. Sarah Mich ’11 said being forced to eat early has helped her get more work done.

“While there are times that I would enjoy eating later, having the dining halls close at 7 puts me on a more productive work schedule,” Mich said. “Not eating from 7 [p.m.] to 7 [a.m.], though, is a pretty long time, and it would be nice if there was coffee, tea [or] little snacks available … when most kids are studying.”

YCC President Rebecca Taber ’08 said the discussion about extending dining hall hours is not new. But previous attempts to change the dining schedule have been too ambitious, calling for a complete overhaul, she said.

“I think the administration respects the fact that we’re willing to explore things on a smaller basis rather than campaigning for a revolution in dining hours,” Taber said.

She said YCC members have been meeting with representatives from student financial services, YUDS and other departments to discuss the proposal.

Even if Yale students support the program, Karen Dougherty, a YUDS spokeswoman, said several logistical problems might impede the proposal’s success. The cost of a Yale dining plan pays more for labor than for food, she said, and increases in labor costs would be transferred to students if hours were extended.

“Employees still work an eight-hour day, [and] if they’re not going to leave until later in the evening, then they’re going to have to come in later in the morning,” Dougherty said. “We’re certainly not going to be paying overtime, but even part-time employees [are] an added expense, which would have to be covered by the meal plan.”

Timing is also an issue. At the end of the semester, the University will take over control of its dining halls from Aramark, a private company Yale has contracted for 10 years.

“I’m not sure how far [YCC members] want to go about making large changes when there is no person in charge at this point,” Dougherty said.

But Tomas Rua ’10, a member of the Student Advisory Dining Committee, which drafted the YCC proposal, said the changeover is a perfect opportunity to reconfigure the dining schedule.

“Part of the problem with Aramark was that there was a lot of inflexibility with them,” he said. “They had set costs they didn’t want to exceed so they didn’t fool around too much.”

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