Layoffs may strain Payne Whitney

After cutting jobs at Payne Whitney Gymnasium beginning last school year, the Department of Athletics is proposing more layoffs by the end of the academic year, according to four gym employees, who said the move could compromise the building’s security.

Athletic attendant Jim Barone, who helps to staff the gym’s front desk, said the Department of Athletics cut 15 jobs in the fall due to budget constraints, and that more layoffs may be on the way. Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle, who approves the athletics budget, declined to comment on specific budget cuts. Director of Athletics Tom Beckett would not comment on whether the gym will see further layoffs, but he said gym-goers’ security will not be at risk.

“We’re certainly not going to compromise security, health or safety,” Beckett said. “We cooperate and communicate on a daily basis with security of all of our facilities and we communicate with the Yale Police, and that is an ongoing process that will not be compromised.”

Currently, athletic attendants are on duty during gym hours. But with new layoffs, there would only be one attendant working at any given time — unless the gym cuts its hours substantially, Barone said. In addition to checking IDs at the front desk, athletic attendants take care of towels, patrol the building, help patrons with lost locker combinations and report building maintenance trouble. With these and other responsibilities, the front desk might at times be empty with fewer attendants, Barone said, leaving the building vulnerable to outsiders.

“I’m going to be there by myself with another security guard that has to take care of issues in the back,” Barone said. “When I have to leave the desk, anyone can come in at any time.”

Barone said that on a typical day he often has to leave the front desk for up to 20 minutes at a time to launder the gym towels, as well as respond to concerns about the gym’s maintenance. Barone said nearly 20 thefts occur each year in the gym, and that stolen items range from backpacks to credit cards. He added that he has seen people with bolt cutters try to break into lockers.

“We’re the front line of anyone that comes into that building for good or bad, and any given day we get people who want to sneak into the building or break into the building,” Barone said. “We’re there to stop those guys.”

Three employees interviewed, who wished to remain anonymous to protect their jobs, said they agree with Barone’s concerns. One employee said he brought up concerns last Tuesday about security, following the layoffs to the athletics administration in the fall. But he said the concerns were ignored.

“It wasn’t much of a great response,” the employee said, explaining that Forrest Temple, Yale Athletics’ senior associate director of finance, facilities and administration, told him the department would deal with any security problems as they come.

Temple deferred comment about the layoffs to Beckett, who declined to provide specifics about the role athletic attendants play in gym security. Edward Mockus, associate director of intramurals, Payne Whitney Gymnasium and recreation, also declined to comment.

Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees security matters, said she was unaware of any changes at Payne Whitney that would jeopardize security.

While Jesse Hassinger ’11, who was exiting the gym Monday, said he has never had any problems with security at the gym, he added that he thinks there should be enough employees working at the gym so that there is at least one person working at the front desk at all times.

Still, Dan Vargas ’10, who was using the gym’s basketball courts Monday, said he does not think the layoffs will be a problem because he believes few people enter the gym without proper access.

Students carrying valid ID cards may use the gym’s facilities for free, while those with membership — available to students, staff, faculty, alumni, retirees and certain relatives — can also access facilities.

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