Some Yale students could find themselves unexpectedly turned away from meals in their dining halls on Thursday, due to a mistake in the registration process for the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project fast.
All of the students who registered last semester for the fast were automatically enrolled again this semester, YHHAP co-coordinator Amy Wojnarwsky ’07 said. Dining Services, which helps the group organize the fast every semester, did not clear the online sign-up databases from last semester before allowing new people to register, she said. The YHHAP chose not to clear the databases at this point, she said, because doing so would erase both the people who signed up last semester and those who have already signed up this semester.
Dining Services Director Don McQuarrie could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The online signup system was first used last semester, after the previous system, which required people to sign up at tables around campus using their Social Security numbers as identification, had to be modified when Dining Services stopped accepting Social Security numbers because of privacy concerns. The problems in the new system will be resolved before the spring fast, Wojnarwsky said.
“We’re not going to have this issue for next semester,” she said.
The YHHAP has sent out several e-mails this week explaining the situation and apologizing for the opt-out system to everyone who was automatically registered.
“Most people weren’t happy that they were automatically enrolled,” Wojnarwsky said. “People are probably dissatisfied with the system as a whole.”
Nonetheless, Wojnarwsky said, students have generally been understanding of the automatic enrollment, and based on the responses to the e-mails that she has sent explaining the situation, she said it seems relatively few people are opting out.
“My personal guess would be that 10 to 15 people have opted out as a result,” she said.
The YHHAP’s goal this semester is for 1,300 students to participate in the fast, Wojnarwsky said. Due to problems with the Dining Hall IT system, it is not possible at this point to judge whether the group will meet its goal, but Wojnarwsky said enrollment for this semester appeared to be going at approximately the same rate as last semester.
Andrew Beaty ’07 said about one-third of his friends were planning to participate in the fast, and none seemed to be upset by the automatic enrollment.
“Personally, it didn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I’m definitely staying enrolled.”
While Daniella Berman ’07 said she plans to participate this semester, she said the decision to implement automatic enrollment was not ideal.
“You can’t force someone to be a good person or to do a good deed,” Berman said. “So it’s a little odd.”
Brian Lee ’06 said he chose not to participate in the fast this year, but not because of the database issues. He said he believes too small a part of the cost of the meal plan actually goes to the charities supported by the YHHAP, and he believes there are better ways to contribute.
“Symbolically it’s a cool thing,” he said, “[But] it’s one or two dollars.”
But Wojnarwsky said the amount of money that the YHHAP gets from each student who chooses to give up meals for the day is closer to $6, out of the approximately $20 daily cost of the meals. The reason for the discrepancy is that Dining Services still has to employ and pay all of its staff members for the day, she said.
The fast usually raises around $5,000 for various hunger- and homelessness-related charities. This year the money will go to several volunteer organizations in the New Haven area dedicated to providing support for local homeless people, including Inside at Night and Harmony Place, which owes its entire operating budget to the proceeds from the fast, as well as five international organizations ranging from the Yale College Tsunami Relief Fund to the Genocide Intervention Fund.
The deadline for both signing up and opting out is 1 p.m. today.