The year 1796 was one of momentous change. John Adams became the second man to be elected president of the United States. Tennessee was admitted as the 16th state of the Union. The French Revolution continued to polarize Europe and shock observers on both sides of the Atlantic.

But perhaps the biggest change of all had to do with change itself.


The year 1796 was one of momentous change. For the first time in American history, the quarter dollar (now known colloquially as the “quarter”) went into large-scale production in Philadelphia.

One year later, production came to a crashing halt. The mint slammed its doors in the faces of those who had dedicated everything they had to its voluminous production capabilities. Skies darkened; children cried in the arms of their mothers, who could only look on in disbelief, helplessly.

Granted, quarter production resumed seven years later, in 1804, yet — however young we may be — we like to think that we can identify with those betrayed souls. As we shake out our pockets, we are left with a trying question: Where have all the quarters gone?

This absence appears to be, distinctively, a Yale issue. And the culprit is clear: those coin-hungry, greedy, terrestrial black holes otherwise known as the lockers in Payne Whitney Gymnasium and the Yale University Art Gallery.

The cost of attending Yale is hefty by any estimation. Even including financial aid, the average undergraduate pays tens of thousands of dollars per annum to attend this institution. One could reasonably expect that free and basic access to Yale facilities would be included in that cost, But at the current moment, one would be wrong.

On its Web site, the Yale University Art Gallery purports to be “free and open to the public.” This statement, however, could not be further from the truth. Try entering with your backpack — as we did, last Wednesday — and you will surely be directed to the “locker area.” While this may seem reasonable, the following is not: to secure your belongings in a locker, you are required to pay a quarter. If you don’t happen to have one on you, you have two choices — leave your valuables, precariously, in an unlocked locker or leave the premises. This is an affront to justice if there ever was one.

We can anticipate the response of gallery partisans. “Your argument is ridiculous,” they will say, “because you can get your quarter back when you retrieve your belongings.” To this, we respond: “Hold on right there.” Just because you can get your quarter back doesn’t mean that the average person will remember to do so or even knows that it can be done. In fact, of the tens of people questioned for this article, a grand total of four knew about the quarter-return option. Besides, finding a quarter to insert into the locker in the first place is a nuisance and can eat up a fair amount of time. And as Yale students know too well, time equals money.

The case of Payne Whitney Gymnasium is even more egregious. In the men’s locker room on the third floor, the lockers require — again with a return option — the disbursement of a quarter. Yet unlike trips to the gallery, which do not require locker-bound accessories, the gymnasium all but necessitates them. New Haven weather is temperate for roughly two months of the academic year. The rest of the year, temperatures are dismally frigid. Hence active scholars need a place to stow their outerwear while they perspire in the gymnasium. Who wants frostbite? Nobody — because it’s the worst!

In such circumstances, access to Payne Whitney becomes a privilege, not a right, for Yale undergraduates.

Benjamin Franklin, an esteemed Philadelphian himself, once said: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” With the hidden costs of its facilities, Yale would undoubtedly make Franklin mad, as she is sacrificing a portion of its students’ liberty under the banner of a security seldom realized.

The lockers at the art gallery, the gym, and all other University facilities should be free of charge to students. In a time of tight credit, we could all use some loose change.

Max Barbakow, Eddie Fishman and David Schlussel are juniors in Silliman, Berkeley and Branford Colleges, respectively.