Tailgate rules jeopardize a Yale tradition

A year after Harvard imposed tight restrictions on alcohol at the Game, Yale’s own new rules — which will limit pre-Game parties, end tailgates after halftime and ban drinking games as well as sitting or standing on top of vehicles — seem almost moderate by comparison. But while we appreciate the University’s apparent recognition that draconian regulations like Harvard’s are counterproductive, Yale’s new policy seems like more of a public relations move than an effort to address a real problem.

It is somewhat unclear what problems the new regulations are supposed to address. While we will miss the traditional practice of sitting and standing on top of U-Hauls next month, Yale’s safety concerns on this point seem relatively warranted. That said, it seems doubtful that capping on-campus parties, banning drinking games and ending the tailgate early will create either a safer or more enjoyable environment for students.

The argument has been made that drinking games encourage irresponsible drinking, and admittedly, the practice of funneling cans of beer is a potentially hazardous extreme. But it is also important to recognize that discouraging activities that center on drinking beer effectively encourages students to turn to hard liquor, which may lead to graver consequences.

With regard to safety, the party ban and the early tailgate closure raise even more significant concerns. Discouraging on-campus drinking the night before the Game could distance inebriated students from available medical or other safety resources, and preventing students from drinking in an open and organized forum will undoubtedly drive some to smuggle their own beverages into the stadium — again, most likely hard liquor.

Some students have expressed satisfaction with the new regulations’ potential to encourage people to actually attend games, at least after halftime, rather than drink outside the Yale Bowl all afternoon. But this goal seems unlikely to be achieved by imposing restrictions that will discourage at least some students from attending games in the first place.

It is important to recognize that tailgates exist as a valued tradition independent of football games, and that many people who would otherwise never set foot on Yale’s athletic fields are drawn to this tradition. By cutting off tailgate festivities after halftime, the administration risks discouraging these students and alumni from making the trek out to the Bowl for just a couple of hours at the tailgate. Even if these tailgaters never take a seat in the stadium, their presence contributes to the social environment that helps to draw Yalies to games.

While the administration seems to have struck a neat balance by appearing to toughen its stance on alcohol at games without making sweeping changes, these rules seem unlikely to actually increase student safety. Relatively moderate as the University’s new measures may seem, imposing any new regulations on tailgating risks diminishing the appeal of one of Yale’s most beloved traditions.

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