Low’s column was right on target about difficulty of reserving Yale classrooms

To the Editor:

While Roger Low’s column in Thursday’s News (“Chaotic room-reservation system handicaps groups,” 11/30) sheds light on a little-known but frequent headache of the leaders of campus organizations, it is only the beginning of the story of the inefficiencies of the system for reserving Yale’s smaller classrooms.

As anyone who has organized one of Yale’s major student-run conferences knows, reserving classrooms can be a nightmare. The process of classroom reservation is controlled by the little-used Yale Registrar’s Office, but the approval for the conference itself comes from the Yale College Dean’s Office and involves a signed paper form. Each of the offices has a single individual authorized to deal with these requests. If either individual is out of the office, the entire process grinds to a halt. Furthermore, since both individuals are inundated with more e-mail than either can possibly read and respond to, the best strategy seems to be just to show up in the office and not leave until your needs are met, which creates a further bottleneck.

The classroom reservation system is complicated by the fact that classes always take priority. While Yalies are (of course) students first, this fact’s implementation causes further problems. Students cannot begin to reserve rooms for a given semester until after the end of shopping period, even if the date for the event is set a year in advance. Organizations that want to have any sort of meeting during shopping period, which is often necessary for recruitment, are in even worse shape. The Registrar’s Office will often refuse to attend to their requests, forcing the students to squat in a seemingly empty classroom with no way of determining whether the room is free for the duration of their meeting.

As a result of all of these problems, Yale needs to completely overhaul its room-reservation system. Registered undergraduate organizations need to be able to log into an online system and electronically reserve a classroom. This system should be constantly updated with academic and departmental use of classrooms, as well as with other student reservations. For requests to reserve more than a few rooms (for major conferences), a Dean’s Office representative should be able to log into the system and approve the organization’s event, eliminating any paperwork. Furthermore, since it the system will be update in real time, students should be able at least to attempt to reserve rooms during shopping period. As for events that occur at the same time each year, students should be able to provisionally reserve a block of rooms, subject to minor changes for sections and courses. This would be a large improvement over having no rooms reserved until the week of a conference.

Yale will soon have a new Dean of Student Affairs. He or she should make it a priority to work with the registrar and bring this antiquated system in the 21st century, and allow Yale’s capable student body to run the organizations and conferences that the Yale administration is often so proud of.

David Gershkoff ’06

Nov. 30

The writer is a strategy consultant in New York. He is the former president of the Yale International Relations Association and a past Secretary-General of the Security Council Simulation at Yale.