Yale Daily News

Pierson College will start a pilot program on Monday to provide 24-hour access to students wishing to study in the college dining hall.

With the new program, announced a week ago by Head of Pierson College Stephen Davis, Pierson joins Saybrook College — which implemented a similar policy in 2013 — in keeping dining halls open around the clock for students who prefer to study in relatively uncrowded spaces where they are also allowed to eat. While the pilot program is intended to serve Pierson students, there will be no restrictions barring students from other colleges from joining friends in Pierson to work on problems sets or study in groups.

“The specific context for this was winning the Gimbel Cup, and I was trying to think of things that I could do for the students to celebrate that,” Davis told the News. “I had a conversation with the [Yale College Council] before spring break, so I was aware of what they were advocating for. The dining manager was very flexible in facilitating, and it turned out to be pretty straightforward.”

The Gimbel Cup is awarded each year to the residential college with the highest standing in scholarship based on students’ GPAs from the previous academic year and the fall term of the current academic year.

According to a Yale College Council report released in January, nearly three-quarters of respondents to the council’s fall 2017 survey claimed they would use the dining halls as a study space at least occasionally. Students in Ezra Stiles, Pauli Murray, Trumbull and Davenport colleges expressed the most interest. Thirty percent of students surveyed said they found it either somewhat or very difficult to find a place to study in the evening.

YCC University Services Director Heidi Dong ’20 told the News that in conversations with YCC representatives, most residential college heads seemed amenable to the idea of keeping dining halls open throughout the night. But, Dong said, some heads of college were less enthusiastic about the proposal and raised concerns about the possibility that such a policy would overburden dining hall workers and cleaning staff who prepare the facilities for breakfast services each morning. 

“The main concern was making sure we could make this happen without increasing the labor of the dining staff,” Davis said. “With a free space, you don’t control what happens every last minute. But as a community, we have a pretty good sense of collective responsibility.” 

In Saybrook, after dinner, staff members close the dining hall for cleaning and then reopen the facility shortly thereafter to students who wish to study. According to the YCC report, in the five years since the policy was instituted in Saybrook, there have been just two reported disciplinary incidents. In one instance, a student discharged a fire extinguisher in the dining hall; in another, a student climbed over the partition separating the kitchen and seating areas, the report said. Saybrook students who use the dining hall after hours are not supervised, and Davis said he does not plan to implement a monitoring system in Pierson either.

Davis added that he and Pierson’s dining hall management have also discussed the feasibility of providing water, coffee or snacks during the study hours. One worry, Davis said, is that providing a 24-hour study space so close to dorm rooms will enable students to “make all-nighters a regular practice.”

“We’ll be open to hearing feedback and will continue thinking about encouraging healthy sleep patterns and finding a balance as we explore this,” Davis said.

Many of Yale’s peer institutions already have policies in place to support students’ grueling study schedules. Harvard Dining offers complimentary “brain breaks” consisting of bagels, cereal and other snacks after dinner five days a week.

Julianna Lai | julianna.lai@yale.edu