Grad School Parties: Making the Grade?

As the saying goes, “All roads lead to Toad’s.” But it is doubtful that many graduate students will be among Toad’s sweat-drenched throngs. It would surely be odd to find a first year medical student drinking jungle juice at SAE or Beta Late Night. So where do the Cold War TAs go to have a few beers and Gaddis-gossip?

Without the social bubble of residential colleges, it is difficult for grad students to meet others of their ilk — especially those in different programs and schools — but they do not simply disappear into self-imposed social isolation when classes are over for the day. On weekends in particular, various schools throw parties, all open to undergraduates, provided they are over 21. And, of course, at the end of the night, all graduate student roads lead to GPSCY (Graduate Professional Student Center at Yale).

Each school — from the Law School to the School of Forestry — has its own social scene on the Yale campus. Most of them host their own special weekly events, fostering a social dynamic within the school itself, if not across the entirety of the graduate student population.

Thursday nights, when the beer at BAR is back to normal price, the Yale Medical School’s weekly mixer, with its oh-so-clever moniker ClubMed, is just getting underway. Running from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Medical School cafeteria, ClubMed gives aspiring surgeons a chance to practice their hand-eye coordination at the beer pong tables, its dimmed lights concealing the unsightly bags under interns’ eyes.

“I think ClubMed is a great way for the biomedical community to socialize and on occasion to get to know our professors, as barkeeps, in an informal setting,” James Park MED ’07 said.

Professor barkeeps include School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern, who bartended last year during the Med School’s “Second Look Weekend” — the equivalent of Yale College’s Bulldog Days.

Alpern said ClubMed is entirely student driven, with little administrative involvement.

“I wouldn’t say we encourage or discourage it. I think it’s fine,” Alpern said. “They learn their medicine, so it’s not interfering with that.”

Every Friday night, first year architecture grad students host “Six on Seven,” the architecture happy hour that takes place at 6 p.m. on the seventh floor of the Art and Architecture building.

While the alcohol usually only consists of a keg, party themes can sometimes get elaborate, ranging from wings to a pinata party to “Sausagefest,” complete with mountains of grilled wieners.

“It’s a big part of the school culture,” Harris Ford ARC ’07 said. “We work so much, so it’s kind of like the night we blow off steam.”

Frequently, attendees are already in their studios and just wander up to the roof for a bit of time off.

“Some people just get a beer and come back and work at their desks,” Ford said.

“Depending on how much work you have,” his studio-neighbor Greg Heasley ARC ’07 added.

“Depending on how much of a loser you are …” another studio-neighbor, Brook Denison ARC ’07, added under his breath.

Because the A&A Building closes in the evening, only architecture grad students and their guests from other schools have access to the happy hour, with the occasional undergrad.

Andrea Sreshta ’06 said she went to the happy hours frequently last year with other architecture majors. Socializing with the same person who critiques your analytical drawings might seem awkward, but she said the general dynamic of the A&A’s residents takes the pressure off.

“They’re fairly relaxed in general,” Sreshta said.

The happy hours seem to function more as a study break in an intense Friday night of work than an opportunity to totally let loose. Thursday nights, were cited by most graduate students as the biggest night to go out, since many are usually out of town for at least one night each weekend.

The Thursday “DJ Dance Party” is indeed the most popular night at GPSCY. A kind of cleaner, more spacious version of Rudy’s, GPSCY’s dimly lit lounge features leather couches, a fireplace and a big-screen television. A long bar, called Gryphon’s Pub, runs along one side of the lounge and offers different drink specials every night ($4 martinis, $7 pitchers). A small room in the back houses two pool tables; elsewhere in the building is an outdoor patio and a ballroom.

Located at 204 York St., GPSCY offers a $12 annual membership for graduate and professional students. The Yale Graduate and Professional School Senate oversees GPSCY, and students are directly responsible for every aspect of the club, from manning the door to tending bar. This student involvement makes GPSCY the most prominent grad school locale on campus.

“It’s definitely the one place that everyone knows about and everyone kind of goes to, even if it’s just after classes to play pool,” GPSS president Vipan Nikore SOM ’06 said.

Stevie Wicken GRD ’06, who said he went to GPSCY up to five times a week during his first year as a grad student, now goes once or twice a week, including Thursdays, when his friend DJs. His continuing love for GPSCY stems from the community of students there.

“It’s where you can go and you always know someone,” Wicken said.

GPSCY provides a place to socialize without talking about academic work or engaging in typical intellectual one-upmanship. Christian Bailey GRD ’09 said he goes to GPSCY about once a week. Though he usually just goes with old friends, he said GPSCY still offers “genuine relaxing” as opposed to “overachieving relaxing.” Wicken also pointed to GPSCY’s convenience as a draw: no lines, no dressing up, no overpriced drinks.

And no undergraduates.

Denizens of Yale College can only enter GPSCY as the guest of a member. While a few intrepid undergrads still make it beyond GPSCY’s heavy wooden door, this rule still bars most.

Despite this policy, graduate students said they would like the opportunity to meet more undergraduates.

“I think it’s a shame that there’s what feels like a divide between the undergrads and grad students,” Alex Martinos GRD ’10 said.

Off campus, Rudy’s stacks up high as grad students’ favorite destination, distantly followed by Anna Liffey’s and Anchor Bar. So if undergraduates actually do want the opportunity to socialize with their TAs (or pick up a future doctor), Rudy’s is just as good as GSPCY. And Rudy’s offers booze avec frites.

Perhaps the solution is not for undergrads to seek out grad school spots, but to ask them into their own. Grad and professional students all said — with surprising readiness — that they would be happy to get an invitation into a residential college, places as mysterious to them as GPSCY is to undergraduates.

“It’s the undergrads who exclude us from their ‘gated residential colleges,’” Denison said, jokingly. “We share our building eagerly.”

Thus, a cure to any undergraduate’s party ennui is to not only rub shoulders with TAs in GPSCY, but also pour them cups of Dubra in dank common rooms across campus. After all, Divinity students deserve God Quad standing room as much as any other Yalie.

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