Nearly 10 months after last year’s Harvard-Yale football game in Cambridge, Mass. ended in several arrests and dozens of citations for underage drinking, the Yale administration is discussing whether to change its policy for the tailgates at the Yale Bowl this November.
Administrators have not yet come to any conclusions and are unlikely to resolve the issue by stepping up security, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said. Instead, the University plans to work with students to ensure that tailgating activities are conducted safely and will encourage more non-drinking events to coincide with the tailgates, he said.
“We’ve had conversations, but we’re mostly just talking about what goes on — where are the problem areas, how do problems emerge — more so than discussing potential ways to address those,” Salovey said. “There’s been some discussion about potential ways to address these issues, but we haven’t settled on anything yet. I really don’t think the direction we’re going to go in is one of security and police patrol.”
The discussions about discouraging binge drinking and reckless behavior have involved the Council of Masters, members of Yale’s athletic department and athletic team captains. The talks come as a 13-member committee to review Yale’s alcohol policy is meeting regularly and plans to release its findings by the end of the semester.
The committee, which Yale President Richard Levin launched in the spring and is chaired by Salovey, will meet every week until the end of the semester to discuss alcohol at Yale as well as review policies on other college campuses. Though Salovey said it is too early to speculate about what the recommendations will be, he said he thinks the report will ultimately be more focused on the effects of drinking on student life than on policy changes.
“I don’t think it is likely we are going to suggest a major overhaul in policy,” Salovey said. “But I do think we are going to focus on ways to help create a culture at Yale in which students can feel that they can have a good time with friends that doesn’t necessarily involve heavy drinking.”
The committee has been meeting since the spring and began with an fact-finding education phase, during which committee members examined student life through meetings with various student groups, athletic teams and fraternities. This semester, the committee will collect statistics from a range of other sources, including survey data and statistics on hospital transports for excessive drinking.
“We might meet with some leaders of student organizations such as fraternities and ask them from their point of view to describe the way people drink at the fraternity parties, to describe the kind of social climate at those parties,” Salovey said.
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 have expressed concerns about the lack of enforcement by public officials. Levin appointed the committee in response to a growing awareness of binge drinking on campus, as well as the debate over alcohol at last year’s Yale-Harvard football game.
Though students acknowledged that drinking is a dominant part of Yale’s social scene, they said they often have no problem finding non-drinking related activities during the weekends.
Rosa Ayala ’09 said she thinks drinking is “inevitable” in a college environment, but that Yale students are more responsible than most.
“I personally don’t drink and I’m having a lot of fun at Yale,” Ayala said. “The people at Yale are mostly responsible about drinking alcohol. They know how to get back to their work when it’s time to.”
But Ester Chu ’09 said she thinks Yale’s social atmosphere should be “a little less centered” around drinking.
“It seems like a lot of the parties are centralized around drinking,” Chu said. “But I think it’s very easy for people to say no; it’s not like a pressure or anything.”
Many of the activities that are considered hallmarks of Yale’s social year, such as The Game and Spring Fling, are accompanied by large amounts of alcohol consumption. But Orly Friedman ’07, a representative for the Yale Student Activities Committee, said the events themselves are not centered around alcohol. Most alcohol consumption occurs at parties before and after the events, she said.
“What we offer is specifically non-drinking oriented,” Friedman said. “I think it’s nice that the campus-wide events are places where you can have fun, whether or not you’ve gone to a party beforehand.”
Elana Rosenthal ’06, a freshman counselor in Timothy Dwight College, said she thinks Yale’s current policy — which does not punish students caught drunk at events like Spring Fling because it classifies alcohol as a health issue and not a disciplinary issue — is good for student safety.
During her visits to friends at state and other schools, where students are put on probation if they are found with alcohol, Rosenthal said she often found that students would “hole themselves up” in their rooms and drink in secret to avoid being caught. And if a student drank too much, she said the student’s friends often were reluctant to seek help.
“If someone’s passed out, they feel very hesitant about actually getting help … because they will get in trouble, which is a choice we never have to make,” Rosenthal said. “If someone is that drunk you should never have to think about that.”