Until recently, the breeze wafting across Hewitt Quadrangle late at night brought only the faint scent of midnight oil burning in students' rooms. Now, most nights, the atmosphere there is awash with the smells of sizzling food and the buzz of young voices drifting through the doors of University Commons -- thanks to a new program launched jointly by students and Yale officials.
Through the "Commons at Night" initiative, Lord's Cafeteria in the University dining hall -- which for years has closed after serving lunch -- is transformed for three hours nightly five times a week (10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday) into a meeting hall where Yale students can come to socialize, grab a late-night snack or take part in other special activities.
The concept of opening Commons to enhance students' social life and to provide additional on-campus meeting space for campus groups was first proposed by members of the Yale College Council, the undergraduate governance group. The idea has been enthusiasically supported by officials in the Yale College Dean's Office, the Council of Masters and Yale Dining Services, as well as by the Social Activities Committees in all 12 residential colleges, the Senior Class Council and the Freshman Class Council.
In the first week of the "Commons at Night" program, the YCC sponsored a performance by a live band at the Sept. 30 opening and a comedy night. Student groups are expected to host other "theme" evenings and special activities, and the YCC is considering bringing in a big-screen television for the undergraduates' viewing pleasure. Groups needing a place to congregate will be able to use the meeting room adjacent to Lord's Cafeteria.
To soothe students' penchant for late-night snacking, Yale Dining Halls is offering a menu of diverse munch-ables. These include everything from cold treats -- Sara Lee deli sandwiches, sodas, bottled water and juices -- to hot-off-the-grill selections -- buffalo chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, nachos, grilled sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs. Plans are also underway to bring in a frozen yogurt machine for the sweet-toothed. Students can pay for these potables by using their Flex Dollars or Eli Bucks, or by cash or credit card. They are also free to bring in food from other nearby eateries or from "Machine City" at nearby Sterling Memorial Library.
Saybrook College Dean James Van de Velde, who has served as liaison between the Yale College Dean's Office and the YCC in planning this initiative, says: "Last year, Dean Brodhead was happy to open Payne Whitney Gymnasium on Friday evenings to allow late night sports; so too, he is pleased this year to support this YCC initiative to make better use of our facilities to foster a better social life at Yale. If the YCC later assesses the initiative as successful, it may continue throughout the year. Much will depend on student enthusiasm and support."