Though the future of free copies of The New York Times in Yale’s dining halls is unclear, University President Richard Levin said he has taken note of the strong show of student interest in keeping the paper.

Last week, Yale College Council President Jon Wu ’11 said he had polled the YCC executive board to gauge student interest in the 800 copies of The New York Times that are distributed across Yale College each day, at the request of the President’s Office. The board presented the President’s Office with several ideas to reduce subscription costs, which total roughly $50,000 a year — spurring a group of students to protest the survey online and circulate a petition.

But Levin said Wednesday that he has not reached a decision about whether to provide the newspapers in the future. When he asked the YCC for input, he said, he was seeking information, not looking to implement any immediate changes.

“I only asked an innocent question,” he said. “I didn’t threaten to stop anything.”

Following The New York Times’s announcement last summer that the paper was raising subscription rates by approximately 25 percent earlier this year, Levin decided to ask the YCC for input last Friday about whether students read the hard copies or get their news online, he said.

Levin said he supports students being knowledgeable about current affairs and will consider student opinion as he decides on a course of action.

In response to the YCC’s informal recommendations, two students — Ben Stango ’11 and Charlie Jaeger ’12 — circulated a petition called “Keep The New York Times in Yale’s Dining Halls,” asking Levin to retain the subscriptions Monday through Friday. The petition garnered more than 500 signatures in less than four days, and Stango said he and Jaeger will deliver it to Levin this Friday.

“I saw the YDN article, had a slight heart attack,” Stango said Sunday, “and decided to do what I do best, which is mobilize people.”

An early draft of the petition, received by the News on Wednesday, proposed three alternative solutions to cutting the Times subscriptions: reducing the number of copies purchased each day, which the YCC also proposed; encouraging students to reuse papers instead of throwing them away; and calling for residential colleges to help to pay for the subscription.

In addition to the petition, Jaeger started a Facebook group by the same name, which attracted more than 1,300 members in less than a week.

“The Yale College Council, the body charged with representing our interests, voted last week to support only buying The New York Times on Sunday without surveying the student body’s desires,” the description reads.

Wu said Thursday that the YCC did not intend or propose that the President’s Office discontinue Times subscriptions.

In its informal recommendations, Wu said Tuesday, the YCC made three suggestions if the President’s Office determined cuts were necessary: only subscribe to the Sunday edition of The New York Times, cut subscriptions by one-third or switch to paid online subscriptions when The Times starts charging for them.

“The fact that [the Facebook group] decided to highlight just one suggestion is interesting and incomplete,” YCC secretary Abigail Cheung ’11 said. “I find that a bit frustrating.”

Stango said that even if Levin does not have a definitive plan to eliminate subscriptions of The New York Times, he thought it was still important to voice student views.

“Just because it’s something that’s on the table, I think it’s important to present our opinion respectfully,” he said.

Still, despite the Facebook group’s popularity, students had wide-ranging opinions on the matter.

Tricia Lobo ’10, a member of the group, said she hopes The New York Times subscriptions are preserved, but added that she thinks students are not being sympathetic to the University’s financial situation.

“The reason for cutting the subscription would be for budget reasons,” she said. “Students need to be more cognizant of that.”

But Rachel Glodo ’12, who said she values the print copies for the crossword puzzles, said she does not think the subscription is a financial burden to Yale.

“Compared to all the things Yale spends money on, this is a drop in the bucket,” she said. “There are a lot of things we could cut first.”

Jennie Nevin ’10 said she thinks students should reuse copies in the dining hall, instead of leaving them to be thrown away by dining hall workers.

In an informal poll of 50 students conducted by the News last week, six said they read print copies of The New York Times at least three times a week, while 19 said they read it regularly but fewer than three times a week. Twenty-five students said they do not read The Times regularly.