The Yale College Council discussed solutions to the increasingly controversial residential college dining hall restrictions during a meeting Sunday night with Council of Masters chair Judith Krauss.
Throughout the semester, college after college has added restrictions to combat overcrowding in their dining halls, which have increasingly drawn criticism from some students. Still, many students, particularly in colleges with dining halls that have restrictions, favor the policies, which are currently in place in more than half of Yale’s 11 operational residential college dining halls.
YCC representatives presented several plans for the University to revamp the now-controversial system of dining hall restrictions. Krauss said the Council of Masters, which includes each residential college master, has been meeting to consider changes to the system.
YCC representative Marissa Brittenham ’07 summed up the conflict that restrictions pose to students.
“On the one hand, we’d really like to eat everywhere, but we’d also like to be able to eat in our own colleges,” said Brittenham, who represents Berkeley College, which maintains perhaps the strictest dining regulations.
YCC representatives voiced several grievances with the system, including confusion created by complicated regulations and disruption of cross-college socialization.
“We understand the need of individual colleges to assure people the ability to eat in their own colleges,” YCC President Andrew Cedar ’06 said. “But I wholeheartedly believe that the heart of the social fabric at Yale is the ability to interact between colleges, and meals are the prime time to do that.”
Krauss said confused students can find a list of all dining hall restrictions posted on both the Council of Masters’ Web site and Yale Dining Services Web site. She said dining hall overcrowding became a problem when Berkeley launched the Yale Sustainable Food Project in the fall of 2003 and the simultaneous commencement of college renovations.
“Having a college without a dining hall puts enormous pressure on the system,” Krauss said. “I don’t know if anything grand and sweeping that we tried would be totally successful until we’re all back online.”
The Council of Masters had a meeting about the issue two months ago and has been discussing restrictions since, Krauss said. She told YCC representatives that they are not alone in their concern about the growing number of restrictions.
“You and the masters are not in disagreement on this,” Krauss said. “The masters are as troubled as you are about the dining hall issues.”
She said the masters will try to “get all of us as restriction-free as [soon as] humanely possible.”
Brittenham outlined a list of possible changes in the system including imposing short-term holds on transfers in response to high traffic levels. A second idea is for colleges with regular restrictions to invite students from a few other colleges to their dining halls once a week. Additional plans include establishing a system of transfer points, expanding Sunday night “family” dinners to include every college, drawing students to less popular colleges with theme dinners or abolishing restrictions altogether.
YCC representative Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 recommended that restrictions be abolished across the board so no college would be put at a disadvantage.
“Once one college puts in restrictions, it puts other colleges at a disadvantage if they don’t put in restrictions,” said Kennedy-Shaffer, of Davenport College, who called the process a “domino effect.”
Krauss said she thinks temporarily abolishing dining hall restrictions could be rewarding for students.
“I think if we could have some moratorium on restrictions for a week or two as a kind of pilot experience, it might be interesting,” Krauss said.
YCC Vice President Chance Carlisle ’05 said students in more popular dining halls are more likely to support restrictions.
“I’m in Saybrook, and when I talk to Saybrook students about opening up the Saybrook dining hall to more students, they’re against it,” Carlisle said.
Cedar said the YCC’s next steps will be to confer with Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and conduct a survey to gauge student opinion before taking further action.