Starting in the fall, Payne Whitney Gymnasium will be open for 106 hours per week, up from the current 92 hours.
The one-year pilot program follows a petition, submitted in 2013, by the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate. Payne Whitney’s closing time will now be extended by one hour on Monday through Thursday, three hours on Friday, and three and a half hours on the weekend, bringing the gym’s total weekly hours of operation to the 106 goal, University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews announced in an email to Yale students yesterday. Although Payne Whitney’s pools, crew tanks and facilities on the seventh floor and above will not see extended hours, the Israel Fitness Center, Brady Squash Center and Lanman Center basketball and volleyball courts will be open later under the new pilot program.
“This is a quality of life improvement for graduate students. Access to exercise and personal fitness is beneficial for both for our physical and mental health,” GSA Steering Committee member Brian Dunican GRD ’15 said.
The “Gym User Pilot II Proposal” was developed and approved by the administration after negotiations with the GSA and the GPSS, Goff-Crews said in the email. Goff-Crews added that the University will evaluate student usage of the gym during these new opening hours to estimate the long-term effectiveness of the pilot program.
Associate Athletic Director of Payne Whitney Gymnasium Anthony Diaz said he thought the extension would put Yale in the “upper-middle” of gym availability hours in the Ivy League — Yale is now seventh, one hour above Harvard. Princeton leads the League with 126.5 hours per week.
While undergraduates have 24-hour gym access through their residential colleges, Payne Whitney serves as the single Yale exercise facility for graduate students. Diaz said graduate students do not have the option for late-night workouts.
Diaz added that the total usage of Payne Whitney, including varsity and club athletes, is approximately equal for graduate students and undergraduates. However — not counting students who are affiliated with a club team, varsity team or student organization that uses the gym facilities — the proportion of independent gym-goers is greater among the graduate population, Diaz said.
Dunican said he believes the policy change will disproportionately benefit graduate students, since undergraduates have their own college gyms as well. He said the petition was not meant to cater to Yale athletics, and is more about the personal fitness of graduate students.
But although graduate students and administrators said they think the extension was directed toward graduate student needs, undergraduates interviewed said they would also take advantage of the longer hours.
Nick Wawrykow ’17, who uses Payne Whitney daily but at varying times, said he will likely use the extended hours once or twice a week, specifically on the weekend.
“I like the new hours. It should make it easier to get school work done while allowing me to work out,” Wawrykow said.
Yale club men’s basketball player Kevin Kirk ’16 said he would use the gym during the new hours, but not consistently. Nina Campbell ’18 said she would use Payne Whitney’s new hours when she was not close to her residential college.
Diaz said logistical plans for the extensions are still up in the air. He said the gym will require extra security in the evenings and on the weekend, two people to cover the front desk and additional staff to keep the gym monitored.
“I don’t know exactly how I’m going to staff it yet,” said Diaz. “It’s going to be complicated. The weekend is going to take more creativity on my part.”
Dunican said the main reason that it took so long to extend the hours was difficulties with obtaining funding. He added that the extension plans will be “University-funded,” but declined to specify further.
This change is the second hours extension to be piloted at Payne Whitney recently. Yale held a “Grad Late Night” for four Tuesdays in October and November of 2011, in which graduate students and their spouses could use the gym between 10 p.m. and midnight.
In addition to longer gymnasium hours, the GSA has also advocated for extended library hours, GSA Chair Joori Park GRD ’17 said, adding that she thinks the approval of the gym pilot proposal shows the possibility of a similar change at Bass and Sterling Memorial Libraries. The adoption of the pilot proposal was discussed in monthly meetings throughout the year between Goff-Crews and Park, as well as with GPSS President Gregg Castellucci GRD ’17.
Payne Whitney Gymnasium was built in 1932 and is the second-largest gymnasium in the world.