After graduate students complained about the lack of 24-hour workspaces, Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard has worked to convert odd spaces across campus — including the Dean’s Suite in the Hall of Graduate Studies — into designated work areas.
Continuing an initiative begun last year, Pollard has transformed roughly 2,000 square feet of classrooms, office space and other areas into work and study spots for humanities and social science graduate students. These changes followed a Graduate Student Assembly survey conducted in the 2010-’11 academic year that alerted Pollard to the lack of 24-hour study space, collaborative workspace and rooms in which to meet with undergraduates. Though the newly created study spaces have helped several large departments, including English and History, Pollard is still working to accommodate the needs of students in other departments like Philosophy.
“I am surprised that no one tried to fix this obvious problem in the past,” Pollard said. “I think that we have made good progress, but I consider the success to date only to be a down payment on what actually needs to be done in the future.”
Dean Plummer, who assisted Pollard with the initiative, said the search for new workplaces is challenging, since the Dean’s Office is unable to create new spaces but must instead work within the parameters of areas already designated for the Graduate School, many of which are already occupied.
He and Pollard converted parts of the Graduate School Admissions Office into classrooms, freeing up actual classrooms near departments for use as study spaces. They also converted the suite of bedrooms in the Hall of Graduate Studies traditionally reserved for the Graduate School dean into workspaces for history graduate students. Additionally, Plummer and Pollard worked to increase keycard access to pre-existing areas, including the faculty room in LC for English graduate students and provide 24-hour access to rooms in 451 College St. for religious studies and comparative literature students.
Though graduate students can access Yale’s libraries, which operate under limited hours, Plummer said graduate students lacked places to study or perform their duties as teaching assistants when the libraries were closed, which undergraduates can find in their residential colleges.
“I had assumed that all graduate students had some space, at least some shared space, since all science students have a lab bench and a desk,” Pollard said. “To my surprise many humanities students had no space to meet each other, to meet the students in their sections or to work.”
Claudia Calhoun GRD ’14 said lack of space is especially problematic for teaching assistants who need to meet with students and added that she heard of one graduate student who printed business cards that listed Blue State as his office location. Calhoun noted that students have already begun to use the new spaces.
While Shawn Ta GRD ’17, an East Asian languages and literature graduate student, said he appreciates Pollard’s effort to allot more areas for student use, he added that students would benefit more from having spaces open to all graduate students rather than just those within a particular department.
“This isn’t just about TFs having departmental spaces,” Ta said. “Interdisciplinary spaces are limited, and to have one would create not just an academic but social community.”
Results from the 2010-’11 GSA survey revealed that while all the science and social science departments that responded had at least 24-hour access to some area, six humanities departments — Renaissance Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, American Studies, German, Film Studies and History — completely lacked access to study spaces.