Blue Dog Café under review

Graduate students fear that closure of Blue Dog café would hurt the Graduate School community.
Graduate students fear that closure of Blue Dog café would hurt the Graduate School community. Photo by Sarah Eckinger.

Graduate students are pushing back against the possible closure of the Graduate School’s only student-run dining facility, Blue Dog Café.

News that the café, a staple of the McDougal Center in the Hall of Graduate Studies, may be replaced with a Yale Dining facility or vending machines has generated frustration among the Graduate School community, six graduate students interviewed said. Students have expressed concern that closing the café would harm the Graduate School community by eliminating a popular study spot and communal area. Lisa Brandes, assistant dean and director of graduate student life and the McDougal Center, said in a Tuesday email that administrators have not yet made a decision on the fate of the café, and are “gathering student input.”

Brandes said the Graduate School is undertaking a review of use of the McDougal Center common room — which houses the Blue Dog Café — noting that Jen Mendelsohn, associate director for graduate student life, conducted a survey about the space. The survey’s results have not yet been released, but Brandes said she, Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard and other administrators will discuss them soon.

Though administrators have not reached a final decision, Marita Von Weissenberg GRD ’12 said students are worried because the café’s fall management post — which is historically appointed before the end of the spring term — has not been filled for next year.

Over the course of several emails in recent weeks, Pollard wrote that he had received a number of pleas from students to save the Blue Dog Café, and expressed interest in responding to those concerns. But two students interviewed who contacted Pollard about the café said they have not received replies to their emails, and that the only efforts to gauge student opinion has been a small survey included in the McDougal Center’s weekly “Life Notes” newsletter.

Other students have expressed other concerns about the decision administrators will reach on the café, and whether they will consult students sufficiently in the process.

Danielle Guillen ’13, an employee at the café, said the Yale administration has made a “number of decisions” over the past two years that have not necessarily reflected the opinions or needs of the student body. She said the HGS community would lose “an essential part of socializing” in the McDougal Center should administrators decide to close the café.

“By not allowing their concerns to be addressed by the Blue Dog community, it seems as if the administration, by closing the Blue Dog, has found a solution to a problem that does not exist,” Guillen said.

After his first visit to the Blue Dog Café, Robert Jones SOM ’12 said he was concerned that it would be replaced with a Bass Café-type environment, which he described as “crowded and loud.” He added that graduate students already have the HGS dining hall available nearby, and do not need another facility in the building like the one in Bass or in Kline Biology Tower.

Tony Domestico GRD ’13 said he holds weekly office hours in the café, and cannot imagine his graduate experience without it.

“It’s unlike any other café on campus, and that’s a good thing — it’s one of the last holdouts against the increasing homogenization of the University,” he said. “I bet that if you polled students on whether the Blue Dog should continue to exist as is, or should be converted into a Bass- or Kline-style café, almost everyone would choose the former. And it seems to me that such opinion should be taken into account in any decision on the cafe’s future.”

The McDougal Center was founded in 1997.


  • Quals

    As a grad student, I’ve always wanted this thing closed. It takes up way too much room and is an ugly element of an otherwise lovely room. There are a million other coffee shops around the corner, as well as a dining hall 20 ft away. The only people who want this thing are the kids working at it.

  • ReillyLikesIt

    I love the Blue Dog Cafe. Except I’ve only ever been there once. On a day i played hookie from lab, and could actually be there during the maybe 3 hours a day its open, on weekdays.

    This is just another example of HGS making all the wrong fixes, to great ideas. Problem: theres no central place for students to study and congregate after class/lab/section/studying all day.
    Solution: Open up a room for a few hours in the middle afternoon and then complain when no one uses it, get rid of it, and then say you gave it an honest try.

    By far, HGS is probably the saddest example out of all the school in providing for its students. It wants to be living space, dining hall, student center, and academic building, yet by spreading itself out, it fails in all endeavors. Half of the GSAS students don’t even know their swipe cards get them into the building, but it wouldnt matter, because everything is locked up inside after 4pm. And when the building is open for event (FFF are a great idea), the place is so packed I’m sure someone must be paying off the fire marshal. But what do you expect when our one common space as grad students is open 1 day a month.

    If they are serious about serving the students, they would make the cafe open at night, walk four steps outside to blue state on york, and then lead a group of 30 students to cheaper coffee and a better environment. Other libraries/common spaces in schools are open all the time, but apparently we’re ruffians or teenagers and can’t handle the responsibility.

  • lavenderblue

    ReillyLikesIt: As a graduate student who often uses the common room to study and meet with friends and professors, I’m confused by your nonsensical complaint that HGS is only open “for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon” (or is it “1 day a month”?). The common room is open from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM during the week, and all day on the weekends.

    Also, it’s untrue that Blue State has cheaper coffee than the cafe in HGS. Have you ever been to Blue State? I like it a lot, but it’s a fact that a tiny cup of coffee costs $2.00. And in terms of environment, it’s packed to the gills with anxious undergraduates all day, every day. I often end up taking my coffee to go because there’s no place to sit.

    At the Blue Dog Cafe, I can fill up my mug with direct trade, organic coffee for $1.00, and then hang out for hours without worrying about buying anything else. I’ve written most of my dissertation there.

  • lavenderblue

    Also, Quals: it may be that other people agree with you about the cafe (I don’t, obviously). But it seems to me that the real problem is that graduate students aren’t being consulted about something that would have a major impact on our community space.

  • ReillyLikesIt

    Lavenderblue, i was saying bluedog is cheaper. I would love to go there rather than bluestate. I was specifically saying, HGS, PLEASE give the reason to leave and come to HGS. To be exact, bluedog closes at 5pm on the week, isnt open on weekends. and the common room is often randomly closed with no warning or reason.

    Why would i go to HGS to study after im done with dinner and the gym? Its silly to go to the common room only to have to move to blue state so i can work til midnight or later. I’m pretty sure i run into more grad students sitting at JoJos on a saturday morning sharing 7 people to a 2 person table just so i can get coffee than I do in the library. Bluedog, HGS, the common room, all could be great, I agree. I want them to be great. I just don’t understand the babying that makes it be closed at such early and arbitrary hours.

    HGS may be great for people in some depts that don’t have much structure in their day, but there’s a large (I might even wager majority) of GSAS students who are expected in be in class/lab/teaching, for the majority of the hours a day bluedog/the common room are open.

  • YaleGrad17

    I am not sure where all this “no one uses the Blue Dog Cafe” is coming from, as every time I go in, it is packed with grad students. It would really be shame if the university, once again, made a decision without student input.

  • lavenderblue

    ReillyLikesIt: Ah, I misunderstood you. I do think that humanities graduate students and science graduate students seem to have different desires/needs in regards to the common room. The common room and the cafe are both open as much as I (a humanities student) need them to be. Sure, they’re occasionally closed for an hour or two and that’s annoying, but it seems to me that it’s usually because they’re setting up for First Friday at Five or something. (I will say that I would prefer that the cafe be open later, not because I would buy coffee after 5:00 PM, but because the common room is dead silent and kind of depressing when it’s closed.)

    In any case, I’m really saddened by the idea of our friendly, student-run cafe being replaced by a Kline-style Dining Services operation (or worse, “high quality vending,” as the Student Life Notes survey suggested).

  • attila

    Pollard ignores email from faculty, why would he pay attention to grad students and their coffee shop? He has places to go and people to insult.

  • gradstudent16

    It’s entirely unclear *why* Pollard would close the Blue Dog. It’s reliably well-used and well-liked, and the administration has failed to cite a single problem with it. Moreover, the attempts to “gather student input” have been perfunctory, at best: a survey buried deep in a multiple-item, mass email that nobody reads carefully, and active ignoring of student attempts to get in touch.

    There’s clearly something else going on here, which has caused the administration to decide to close the place, and they’re now just going through the motions of “reviewing” it. The YDN might have tried to actually, you know, dig up the real story. Or at least to *ask* why the change is being considered.

  • schroddi

    Love it. Need my Blue Dog Cafe to stay open. Now I understand the loaded questions at the end of the survey that I answered no to (the ones along the lines of “would you prefer a place that can serve you egg mcmuffins, breakfast sandwiches, other processed food options?”). Don’t fix something if it ain’t broke – actually this is worse than that, this is messing something up that is actually doing quite well!

  • Cell17

    It’s only a matter of time before they close the HGS dining hall and make HGS graduate students eat at the law school dining hall and local businesses. @gradstudent16: This is not “entirely unclear” at all; the administration has demonstrated an accelerating disregard for graduate students on central campus (and the disciplines in which they are earning their degrees, as evidenced by yesterday’s YDN article). As long as graduate students continue to interact with the administration in complete deference to what they are told, actions such as this will becoming increasingly common.

    It’s pretty clear Pollard has zero interest in standing up for the graduate school and battling with other administrators on its behalf. Instead, he has demonstrated his decision to try to climb through administrative ranks by handing the graduate school a pair of scissors (if not multiple pairs) and telling it to run.