Boston rethinks tailgates

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After flirting with the idea of refusing liquor licenses at future Harvard tailgates, the Boston Police Department now says it will only seek to limit tailgate admissions and ban hard alcohol when Yale football returns to Boston in 2006.

Harvard tailback Clifton Dawson looks to get past defensive end Don Smith ’05 and free safety Barton Simmons ’05 in The Game, Nov. 20 2004. Dawson ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in the Cantabs’ 35-3 rout of the Elis. The class of 2005 is the first in 82 years to fail to beat their rivals in four tries.
Smita Gopisetty
Harvard tailback Clifton Dawson looks to get past defensive end Don Smith ’05 and free safety Barton Simmons ’05 in The Game, Nov. 20 2004. Dawson ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in the Cantabs’ 35-3 rout of the Elis. The class of 2005 is the first in 82 years to fail to beat their rivals in four tries.

The tightening of the rules is in response to a sharp increase in hospitalizations and citations of underage drinkers at last Saturday’s tailgate. Despite stringent restrictions and an unprecedented number of police at the tailgates — it was the first time Boston police have been present at The Game — police said at least 25 students were taken to area hospitals for alcohol-related incidents, more than double the 10 students hospitalized in 2002, the last time The Game was held in the city.

Boston police were surprised to find an estimated 10,000 Yale and Harvard students drinking hard alcohol and beer and, in some cases, urinating in public, Boston Police Captain William Evans said.

“We were misled into thinking that this was a low-scale event. We were surprised at how many people were there,” Evans said. “When students are continually going to the hospital, we have a problem.”

Police said they were dismayed to find students urinating on the fence that separates Ohiri Field from a residential neighborhood.

“It can’t get much worse,” Evans said. “Nobody had control of this.”

Boston Police told Aaron Lambert ’06 and Kate Crandall ’06 that they would be summoned to court for underage drinking and other charges. Lambert said he was charged with underage drinking and presenting fake identification to a police officer. Although he said both offenses occurred, Lambert said he finds the situation “ridiculous.”

“It’s a tailgate; people are drinking, everyone’s drinking,” Lambert said. “For Harvard or whoever to put police in the middle of a tailgate, it’s kind of foolish.”

Crandall, a staff reporter for the Yale Daily News, declined to comment.

Boston police wrote down the names of at least 32 underage drinkers to give to their universities for punishment and also ejected 29 students from the tailgate for underage drinking. In addition, Boston police arrested two non-student tailgaters for cocaine possession.

Police believe the mass consumption of hard liquor instead of the beer provided for free by the liquor distributor accounted for an “alarming” number of hospitalizations, Evans said. At future games in Cambridge, police may restrict the number of people allowed into the tailgate and impose a ban on all hard alcohol but allow beer, Evans said.

“There’s no need for that hard stuff at a party for a football game,” Evans said. “That’s what drives people to the hospital.”

Though both Boston and Harvard police officers confiscated false identification cards and ejected underage drinkers from the tailgate, Harvard Police Capt. Steven Catalono said Harvard police made no student arrests because officers were instructed to show “the utmost restraint.”

“We could have easily made hundreds of arrests if we wanted to,” Catalano said. “But instead we chose to utilize the internal disciplinary systems at each school.”

Evans said he was led to believe students would only consume beer by the distributor and would not bring in hard alcohol. But the Massachusetts state law the police were enforcing for the tailgate allowed each person to carry one gallon of hard alcohol.

Harvard Undergraduate Council President Matt Mahan said the beer was only intended to serve as an alternative drink for students.

“We all had slightly different expectations,” Mahan, a senior, said.

Mahan said he felt tailgaters behaved better this year than in previous years and attributed the increased number of hospitalizations to heightened safety precautions as opposed to increased drinking.

“More students were taken to the hospital, but no one came close to being dangerously drunk,” Mahan said. “That was because we were being more vigilant.”

Officials at Harvard University Health Services said they did not see any life-threatening incidents of alcohol abuse.

Despite strong criticisms of police tactics, Mahan called the tailgate “very successful.” Some Yale students who planned tailgates for their residential colleges said they agreed with Mahan.

“Everyone had an amazing time,” Annemarie Baltay ’05, who planned Saybrook’s tailgate, said. “It really was not all that different from previous years.”

Baltay said she was more frustrated by the long lines of students trying to enter the tailgate than by the increased police presence. Due to thorough searches for alcohol and student identification checks, the wait time for reentrance to the game stretched at times to 30 minutes, she said.

But Sadiq Abdulla ’05 said many students found the increased police presence “intimidating.” At the Timothy Dwight tailgate, Abdulla said a disc jockey kept watch for police officers and yelled out a code phrase to warn underage drinkers to put down their alcoholic beverages when officers approached. Abdulla said he believed increased hard liquor consumption is a result of police-enforced restrictions on the amount of beer an individual is allowed to carry to under 20 gallons and a ban on kegs, which prevented students from bringing enough beer into the tailgate.

“There were a lot more people who were dangerously drunk this year than last year,” Abdulla said. “Harvard’s restrictions actually had a negative effect on what they were trying to do.”

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