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.

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