Daniel Levine ’13 was lounging in an armchair at Bass Library while perusing his linear algebra notes. As his concentration grew weaker and his urge to log onto Facebook grew stronger, he remembered the pack of Fritos buried in his backpack. Glancing around surreptitiously, he casually fished them out and put a chip in his mouth.
Moments later, Levine was startled to see the figure of a Bass security guard looming over him. The guard demanded to see Levine’s ID card and said he would be writing Levine a citation. He then warned Levine that any further offenses would result in a $20 fine, Levine recalled.
The guard, whose name is William Turcotte, is gradually gaining a reputation among frequenters of Bass Library for prowling the aisles, seeking out violators of the library’s ban on food and drinks. Students said they have been threatened with fines and loss of library privileges when caught — but, in fact, no such consequences exist.
Food and beverages in non-spill-proof containers are banned from most areas of Yale’s libraries, according to official policy. Students who do not comply with these rules are supposed to be asked to dispose of the items or move elsewhere.
But there is no policy of fining students who break food and beverage rules, said Geoffrey Little, library communications coordinator, nor has such a policy been discussed.
“Any confusion as to the consequences of students bringing food and drink into the library should be attributed to miscommunication and misunderstanding,” Little said in an e-mail. “The Library’s policy on food and drink is quite clear, but such instances may point to a need to better articulate the policy and the consequences that follow from repeated non-compliance.”
The Library’s food and drink policy is in place to preserve library materials and to promote a clean, comfortable environment, Little added. The Library may ask a student’s residential college master or dean to talk to a student about library policy if he or she commits multiple infractions, he said.
When asked about students’ claims, Turcotte denied that he had been threatening students with fines.
“I’m going to say that didn’t happen,” Turcotte said with a grin.
Harry Neveski, a security attendant at Bass who works during the day, said some guards — especially those who work the night shift — take additional measures when dealing with students who break the rules, including taking down a student’s name and student ID number.
“I don’t approve of it,” says Neveski. “It’s not security policy.”
Machiste Quintana ’13, for one, said he thinks taking down a student’s ID number is a scare tactic.
Levine’s experience is not isolated. Recently, Bracewell Polo ’13 brought a steak and cheese sub sandwich into the library, and Turcotte told him if he brought food into Bass again, he could lose access to the library.
“I think it’s unnecessary and ridiculous that he’s threatening students with nonexistent fines,” Rocky Bostick ’13 said.
But some students said they think Turcotte is only doing his job.
“It’s his job to enforce the rules, and he’s just trying to make people take the rules seriously,” Lugar Choi ’11 said. “Besides, it’s not like taking down an ID number causes any harm.”
Despite library policies and Turcotte’s practices, most students interviewed said they often bring food into the library to study.
Amanda Sandoval ’11 said she often brings food into Bass and has never been reprimanded. Still, she said she would understand if a security guard asked her to stop.
“When I plan on being in the library for a long time, I usually bring food so I can snack,” Chase Young ’13 said. “It keeps me focused.”
The only designated food area in Bass Library is the Thain Family Café.