Alcohol policy committee meets in ‘education’ phase

Yale President Richard Levin’s committee to review the University’s undergraduate alcohol policy met for the first time on Monday, though Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said its members are only in the “education phase” of their work and do not foresee immediate policy changes.

“We’re trying to educate ourselves so that we have a deep understanding of our situation at Yale,” said Salovey, who serves on the committee.

The committee is examining any available empirical research or surveys that address undergraduate alcohol policy, as well as comparing Yale’s current policy with those of other universities to determine whether Yale’s policy should be amended. The committee, which is keeping its deliberations confidential, was appointed by Levin over spring break and is composed of approximately a dozen members, including Salovey, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, officials from University Health Services, residential college masters and deans, other administrators, faculty members, and two students, Salovey said.

“We’re going to … see what we can learn from our colleagues at other places,” Salovey said “Maybe there are some best practices in this area that have evolved over time.”

Yale College Council president Andrew Cedar ’06 said he discussed alcohol policy with students at other universities at the Ivy League Student Government Conference last year. Campus leaders from the Ivy League said they think Yale’s alcohol policy is ideal and said they would urge their own administrations to adopt a similar policy on underage drinking, Cedar said.

“Ours was sort of the envy of everyone else’s,” Cedar said. “We seem to be having the most progressive and responsible policy in terms of making sure that the primary concern is safety as opposed to being punitive.”

According to University policy, any service of alcoholic beverages, whether in organized or private settings, must be in compliance with the laws of Connecticut and Yale College regulations — which forbid the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages to individuals under the age of 21. Students who violate this policy may face disciplinary action, either by the master and dean of a residential college or by the Yale College Executive Committee.

But students and University personnel alike have acknowledged that Yale’s policy is seldom enforced by officials.

A growing awareness of binge drinking on campus, as well as the debate over alcohol policy at last fall’s Yale-Harvard Game prompted Levin to convene the committee.

“It has come to our attention that there is a lot of very irresponsible drinking on campus,” Trachtenberg said.

Once the committee’s members complete their deliberations, they will write a report of recommendations and give the report to Levin.

Salovey said the report could be finished by late spring or early fall, although the latter is more likely.

“We’ll see what kind of progress we make,” Salovey said. “We’re meeting every week. It’s a complex area, and we want to give it a thorough study.”

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