Six months into a one-year pilot program of extended hours at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, University administrators are in the process of deciding whether weekend and late-night gymgoers can continue exercising at the facility next fall.
Last August, Payne Whitney’s weekly hours increased from 92 to 106, with the gymnasium’s closing time extended for every day of the week. The decision came after a 2013 petition by the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, who felt the previous hours did not properly accommodate graduate students with strict work commitments during the day. Associate Athletic Director of Payne Whitney Gymnasium Anthony Diaz said he has been compiling attendance records this year and passing them along to Yale administrators, who will decide whether demand will justify continuing the new schedule.
“So far, based on my observations it looks like the weekend hours have been very popular, and the weeknight hours have been pretty popular,” Diaz said. “We are reviewing the numbers pretty much right now to take a look at what is going to happen.”
Under the pilot program, Payne Whitney’s closing time was pushed back from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The gym did not change its opening times, which are 6 a.m. on weekdays and 9:30 a.m. on weekends.
Chair of the Graduate Student Assembly Elizabeth Salm GRD ’18 said that in discussions with graduate students, GSA has seen an enthusiastic response to the extended hours and a general call for their continuation.
“People are loving it,” GSA vice-chair Katie Oltman GRD ’19 said. “I particularly like not getting kicked out at 9 p.m.”
Payne Whitney administrators have been procuring data on gym attendance through two methods, Diaz said. Employees have tracked the number of people checking in at the front desk, but because a person could enter Payne Whitney hours before closing time and stay until after 10 p.m., employees have also counted the number of people in the building during the extended hours.
Diaz said although he could not comment on the timeline for the decision, he expects it to be announced “fairly soon” because the numbers are already under revision. He could not publicize the specific attendance data but added that “the numbers tell the tale” about the fair amount of success the pilot program has had.
Interviews with 25 gymgoers after 10 p.m. on Monday night indicated significant support for the new hours. At least 30 people, not including varsity athletes leaving practice, were using Payne Whitney facilities between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Monday night, and seven of those interviewed said they use the extended hours at least three to four times a week.
The vast majority of those found leaving the gym late Monday night were graduate students, who Oltman said have been the biggest advocates for the extended hours because their daily schedules often do not permit them to use the gym during the day. Undergraduates also have 24-hour access to residential college gymnasiums, while graduate students do not have an equivalent exercising option on campus.
“I work from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and this way I can come to the gym after and not have to get up at an obnoxiously early hour,” said Aarushi Gupta GRD ’21, who was exercising Monday night.
Although the issue of gym hours was primarily brought to athletic administrators by graduate students, undergraduates interviewed also expressed support for the new hours, highlighting that they felt less pressure to go to the gym early.
In addition to the issue of gym hours, Salm said the GSA is pushing for additional library hours, particularly during the weekends and the summer, when graduate students are more likely to use on-campus libraries than undergraduates.