The University announced on Tuesday that expanded access to Payne Whitney Gymnasium during the academic year will become permanent, and a one-year pilot program will test out increased access to Sterling Memorial Library and Bass Library over the summer and during the October and spring breaks.
The announcement, emailed to the Yale community by Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, comes eight months into the one-year pilot program at Payne Whitney that raised the gym’s operating hours from 92 to 106 hours per week, extending the facility’s closing time every day of the week during the academic year. The changes in library hours will include extended hours during the summer at Sterling as well as additional hours at Sterling and Bass Library during October and spring breaks, according to Library Communications Director Amanda Patrick.
Although the announcement noted that the pilot program “will continue through the academic year” after the summer, this refers only to the October and spring break extended hours, as weekly hours during the academic year, which are already longer than the new vacation hours, will remain unchanged.
The gym extended closing times by one hour on Monday through Thursday, three hours on Friday and three and a half hours over the weekend. Library closing times, meanwhile, will move from 4:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer. It remains unclear how late the library will stay open for breaks during the academic year; though Patrick said full details were available on the library website, the calendar on the website does not list hours for Sterling or Bass past August 27.
Payne Whitney and the two libraries are open to all students across the University, but the extensions are designed primarily to benefit graduate and professional students, who do not have access to the 24-hour gym and library facilities in the residential colleges. The changes were chiefly a result of multiple years of campaigning by the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, which included a 2013 petition by the two groups to extend gym hours.
“These extended hours benefit [graduate and professional school students] greatly, as their schedules often have them working later or earlier than the average undergraduate, or through breaks when Yale College may be out,” said Steve Reilly GRD ’15, a former GPSS president who lobbied for extended hours. “More often [students] are looking to work across disciplines, and study spaces in the library may be the only buildings [students] from different schools have access to.”
In an interview with the News in February, Associate Athletic Director of Payne Whitney Gymnasium and Physical Education Duke Diaz said the Yale administration would decide whether to continue the new schedule based on demand from gym-goers. He and other athletic administrators had been compiling attendance records this year to assess the level of interest in the new hours. Diaz could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night following the announcement.
The GSA and GPSS have worked on the issue of gym access for at least the past five years, and the petition in 2013 included a formal report to administrators calling for extended gym hours to improve the health and fitness of graduate and professional students. The joint GSA-GPSS report found gyms at Ivy League schools, not including Columbia, stay open for an average of 112.2 hours per week, more than 20 hours above the previous Yale total. The Dodge Fitness Center at Columbia, which was not listed in the report, is open for 114 hours, making the average for the full Ivy League 112.4.
The new hours do not move Yale from last in the Ivy League in terms of weekly gym hours during the academic year. Harvard is seventh with 108 hours each week, while Princeton has the most, at 126.5 hours.
Similarly, a January 2014 report about library access, compiled by the Advocacy Committee of the GPSS, found that graduate and professional students are “consistently dissatisfied with library accessibility and the availability of study space.” The report again showed shorter operating hours at Yale in comparison to its peer schools — only Yale and Princeton lack a staffed library that remains at least partially open 24 hours a day to graduate and professional students.
Joori Park GRD ’17, former chair of the GSA, said last year the student assemblies prioritized the pilot program extending gym hours, a decision that postponed the library extension until this year.
“These two initiatives are the product of advocacy work on your behalf,” GPSS President Elizabeth Mo GRD ’18 wrote in a Tuesday email to all graduate and professional students. “These changes in policy represent small but tangible steps forward for graduate and professional school students at Yale.”
In her email, Goff-Crews said the University will advertise the extended library hours next year and then analyze the results in discussions with administrators and student leaders.
Though the new library hours will remain unchanged for most weeks during the academic year, Mo said that hours during undergraduate vacations were the most important issue for graduate and professional students.
“Graduate student research has long been disrupted by the tying of the library hour schedule to the undergraduate academic calendar,” GSA President Elizabeth Salm GRD ’18 said. “Most graduate students do not leave during academic breaks, such as the October Recess, and many stay in New Haven over the summer … The changes to the library hours proposed go a long way toward fixing this issue.”
The University has recently taken steps to create a more welcoming environment for graduate and professional students. Earlier this year, administrators unveiled plans for the Schwarzman Center, a new $150 million student center designed partly for the graduate and professional student community, which has often argued that facilities on campus cater primarily to undergraduates. GPSS member Lauren Tilton GRD ’16 said the University’s “uneven allocation of resources” has frustrated graduate and professional students over the years and that the extended hours represent a step in the right direction.
“There are certain things that undergraduates have access to that we do not but are equally as important to us,” Mo told the News. “The extended hours help to address those concerns.”
The lengthy duration of the students’ lobbying effort can be attributed partly to the difficulty of building new funding into the University budget, student representatives said.
Last year, the one-year pilot program at Payne Whitney needed to be approved by University Provost Ben Polak, as the extended hours required additional funding for staffing. Patrick said the new library hours will also require funding for energy usage and evening shifts for library staff.
“The University’s budget takes a long time, even once people have agreed that something is a good idea,” Tilton said.
All four gym-goers interviewed outside Payne Whitney Tuesday night expressed enthusiasm about the extended hours.
Taylor Church ’17, a member of the Yale club women’s water polo team, said her practices at the gym typically end around 10 p.m., sometimes after Payne Whitney’s original closing time. With the extended hours, she said, team members feel more comfortable leaving the gym late at night because they can consult security guards on their way out.
Juan Carmona, a staff member at the Yale School of Medicine, said he had trouble finding time to work out during the old hours.
“When they closed at 9 p.m. or even earlier, it kind of sucked,” Carmona said. “ I had to cut my workout short.”
There are 6,859 graduate and professional students at Yale, and 5,453 undergraduates, according to the University website.