Administrators’ recent tinkering with Commons policy brought another change to the dining hall this week — the eatery will close its doors for a half-hour between breakfast and lunch.
The change is part of the University’s ongoing effort to prevent students from eating both breakfast and lunch on just a breakfast swipe. Commons has traditionally stayed open between breakfast and lunch, but Director of Residential Dining Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86 said the dining staff decided to close between the meals this year to eradicate the swipe problem. While Yale Dining implemented a new policy last spring requiring that students swipe into the Commons food service area instead of just the dining hall, administrators removed that system this year in response to student discontent.
The dining hall closed at 11 a.m. for the break in dining service earlier this week, a time Yale Dining changed to 10:30 a.m. on Thursday to cause the least amount of disruption to student dining habits, Van Dyke said. But students have expressed annoyance with their new expulsion from the hall.
“It’s a terrible move for us,” said Shalmoli Halder ’15. “I feel like I’m just standing on the street and not doing anything constructive [during the break]. I could work on a p-set if Commons were open.”
Commons General Manager Maureen O’Donnell-Young told the hungry students on Thursday that she sympathizes with them and informally polled the students after they were expelled from the dining hall to find out if the new 30-minute closure prevented them from eating.
“We’re really working on coming up with a different solution so all of you who have class between 11:35 and 2:15 can eat,” O’Donnell-Young said to the students gathered outside of Commons Thursday morning, referring to the decision to close Commons at 10:30 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.
Students with varying degrees of annoyance and confusion filed out of Commons Thursday when staff members walked among the tables, asking them to leave. The interrupted diners interviewed called the change “inconvenient” and “stupid.” Some were unsure about whether they could leave their trays at their seats and return at 11:30 a.m. Others milled around the entrance, where a group of roughly 30 assembled by the time the doors opened again.
Students who lined up outside in Uncommon, the food vendor attached to the dining hall, said they were especially upset to use their lunch swipes before class at 11:35 a.m.
“I have class at 11:35, and I was looking forward to a solid lunch at Commons,” said Jonathan Yao ’15, who bought a yogurt and a protein bar before his trek up Science Hill.
After Thursday’s closure at 11 a.m., Yale Dining administrators decided to shut down Commons at 10:30 a.m. instead and allow students to eat a full meal at 11 a.m. before the popular 11:35 a.m. time slot for classes, Van Dyke said. Yale Dining informed meal plan participants of the decision in a Thursday afternoon email.
Students interviewed said that alteration makes more sense, but still think administrators should remove the entire closure policy.
Two Commons staff members, who wished to remain anonymous because they have been instructed not to speak with the press, said they think closing Commons between breakfast and lunch works better than last semester’s swipe system.
Fourteen out of 17 students interviewed had negative opinions of the 30-minute closure. The other three said they are unaffected by the change.
Administrators have faced complaints in the past for other policies concerning Commons. Yale Dining officials received even more serious backlash, including student petitions and staff protests, after closing Commons for dinner in the fall of 2011.
Commons opens for breakfast at 7:45 a.m. and closes at 2:30 p.m.
Contact Julia Zorthian at