Grad students lack study spaces

Graduate students at Yale studying the humanities and social sciences often lack 24-hour study spaces.
Graduate students at Yale studying the humanities and social sciences often lack 24-hour study spaces. Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

Undergraduates can work through the night in residential college libraries. Graduate students in the sciences have 24-hour access to their labs. But humanities and social science graduate students are still looking for somewhere to study late at night, according to a recent survey by the Graduate Student Assembly.

The survey asked students in each department at Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to describe their access to 24-hour study areas, “collaboration space” and places to hold office hours. Only two humanities departments furnish their students with all three kinds of work space, according to the survey. The GSA hopes to address these student needs and is in conversations with administrators about the problem, representatives said, but the organization has yet to come up with a concrete plan of action.

Graduate students interviewed said they constantly feel the lack of study places, and cited roommates, busy daytime schedules and a lack of individual offices as factors that necessitate evening places to work.

“I’m a night owl,” Justine Walden GRD ’14, a renaissance studies student, said. “I do all my work in the wee hours, and it would be wonderful to have a late-night space.”

Some departments have their own libraries, for example the Classics Library above Phelps Gate, but overall the survey results show that humanities students are locked out of their classrooms and departmental buildings at the end of the day with nowhere else to go but Sterling Memorial Library — which closes at 11:45 p.m. Sunday through Thursday — or home.

The responses suggest that half the science departments provide their graduate students with all three kinds of spaces and all of them supply at least one, while over half of the humanities departments do not give access to any of them, students in the GSA said.

Those who do not have department study spaces and rely on central campus libraries often find them inconvenient. In a different GSA survey about libraries conducted this February, the most common complaint was that Sterling closes too early. Students interviewed also complained that its hours are limited when Yale College is on break — a time when two graduate students interviewed say they and their peers have a lot of work.

“Our feeling is that Sterling caters primarily to the undergraduates,” said Anke Rondholz GRD ’11, who is studying classics.

The GSA has raised the issue of study spaces with Provost Peter Salovey and Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Robert Harper-Mangels, and is now looking into which departments need better access and talking to department heads about the possibilities, GSA Facilities Committee chairman Lucas Thompson GRD ’13 said.

Five graduate students interviewed said their dilemma could be solved by late-night key card access to the classroom buildings in which they spend their days. But Harper-Mangels said it is not that simple.

“In some cases, the situation can be easily remedied,” Harper-Mangels said in an email. “In other cases, the problems are more structural, in that some departments simply don’t have study space.”

Even for departments with large buildings that are vacant at night, providing students with late-night access to an unstaffed facility poses a security risk, said Lisa Brandes, assistant dean for student affairs.

Grant Wiedenfeld GRD ’13, a film studies student, said he and two friends petitioned to be able to use their department’s home at 451 College St. for research and conversation late at night, but were told that the security risk involved was too great.

“It’s frustrating for humanities grad students,” Wiedenfeld said. “These spaces foster collaboration, and we striving researchers require them to succeed.”

Thompson said the GSA is approaching the issue by speaking with department heads one by one, negotiating over building access. However, they have no concrete plans to proceed, he added.

The organization is starting with history students, GSA Secretary Andrea Stavoe GRD ’14 said, adding that they have selected a conference room in the Hall of Graduate Studies as a potential study spot, and are currently working on the logistics of keeping it open.

“It seems that some departments don’t realize there’s a need for [these kinds of spaces],” she said.

Of the 62 departments in the graduate school, 30 responded to the GSA survey.

Comments

  • FreddyHoneychurch

    Thanks, Graduate School Assembly, for identifying the most serious obstacles facing academia today.

  • roganjosh

    “Security risk is too great” = “We don’t trust you to lock doors and windows behind you. Hell, we don’t even trust you not to take the computer, projector and furniture when you leave.”

  • bt

    I think the security risk that Lisa Brandes is referring to is the risk TO the students. Unstaffed facility late at night = security risk of something happening to the student. Sadly, these things have happened at Yale.
    One solution would be to have a security guard regularly patrolling the building, every few hours or so. This is what happens in some of the residential colleges.

  • River Tam