Beginning this morning, transfer restrictions will be lifted at residential college dining halls for a four-week trial period authorized by a unanimous vote by the Council of Masters on Friday.

For the two weeks before spring break, all college dining halls aside from Berkeley will allow an unlimited number of transfers during most meals. Berkeley will join the other 11 dining halls in lifting transfer restrictions for the two weeks after students return. In addition, each residential college will institute a “family night” on Sunday evenings, during which no transfers will be allowed unless they are accompanied by a guest in that college.

The pilot plan is designed to strike a balance between maintaining residential college identity and creating a welcoming dining environment for all students, administrators said.

“I think that people should be allowed to eat where they want,” Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said. “But if it infringes on the college’s own students, then there’s a problem.”

Some students said they have faced logistical difficulties in organizing meetings and seeing friends because of the transfer restrictions. Mirko Serkovic ’07 of Jonathan Edwards College said his group of friends would often go to multiple dining halls to find a place where they could eat together, but on occasion he would have to leave the group and return to JE because of another dining hall’s transfer policies.

But Tabia Collins-Mitchell ’07 said she fears Pierson College’s dining hall will return to being as overcrowded as it was this fall.

“It was frustrating to have a dining hall that was so crowded, you had to get there at 5 p.m. sharp, and even then, there wasn’t always space,” she said. “It was just madness.”

Berkeley College Master John Rogers said there is another downside to removing transfer restrictions: When students cannot eat in their own dining hall, a sense of community is lost.

“The experience in the college dining hall is the heartbeat of the Yale College experience and that’s where friendships are developed and nourished,” Rogers said.

Berkeley is in the unique position of being especially popular and unable to serve an especially high number of students because of its exclusively organic menu.

“The food is made from scratch, so there are only so many portions made,” Rogers said. “When all the food is gone, the food is really gone. There’s no last-minute heating up of something else. We don’t have the elasticity and flexibility that other colleges have.”

Lauren Davis ’06, a Saybrook student who enjoys Berkeley’s organic food, said she would likely not take advantage of Berkeley’s more open policy.

“Without restrictions, I have a vision of chaos: Organic peanut butter everywhere, people stepping on free-range chickens — it would be so stressful,” Davis said.

Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss, the master of Silliman College, said each of the colleges would collect such data as wait times, availability of utensils and attendance, both before and after Berkeley removes transfer restrictions. The council will utilize the record of ID swipes at each dining hall as well as data collected by dining hall managers and student volunteers, Krauss said.

Branford College dining hall worker Monica Taylor said she normally lifts transfer restrictions unofficially when the weather is particularly bad or the dining hall has more space than usual and is relieved that the transfer restrictions have been temporarily removed. Pierson dining hall worker Jermaine Smalls agreed, saying the restrictions “make us look like bad guys.”

Dining halls have been forced to implement transfer restrictions in response to having to accommodate not only students from their residential college, but also students from Davenport College — which is currently under renovation and without a dining hall — and, on weekends, students who would ordinarily eat at Commons or the Hall of Graduate Studies dining halls.

Rogers said transfer restrictions have existed for decades on campus, with different colleges enacting them at different times.

“I find puzzling the sense I’ve gotten from students and administrators that the phenomenon of transfer restrictions is a recent one,” Rogers said. “It’s almost like an arms race, is the suggestion, but I think that’s absolutely untrue. I don’t know of any time in which a purely free-market system has been in effect.”

Yale College Council Vice President Chance Carlisle ’05 said temporarily abolishing the transfer restrictions was a “great step in the right direction.” The YCC proposed the elimination last week, passing by a vote of 23 to two a resolution that was largely mirrored by the Council of Masters’ declaration.

While the YCC resolution called for the opening of Commons on Sundays, such a decision would be a budgetary one and would fall under the jurisdiction of the Provost’s Office, JE Master Gary Haller said.

Krauss said that the masters are viewing the next six weeks as an “experiment.”

“It would be disingenuous to say we’re going into this cold,” she said. “We all think that we know what the problem is, just like the YCC thinks it knows exactly how to fix everything, but we’re really clear that none of us knows what all the problems are, and this ought to let us get a handle on just that.”

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