Keep students safe, but give them freedom to grow

To the Editor:

To this Silliman College alumnus, Yale football game tailgates, especially on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, have been the only large reunions with alumni from all classes and all walks of life. And they are reunions in the best spirit of Yale: the spirit of independence, openness and trust in each other. For many of us, tailgating all day on Game day has become the most vital ritual in maintaining our desire to support and participate in Yale’s future. It requires no advance ticket purchases, no fees, no reservations. It encourages only a love for Yale and old friends.

If the University chose to ban only hard liquor — the most dangerous source of alcohol for young people — from Yale Bowl grounds, I would support it. But the more general restrictions on tailgating and celebrating outside Yale football games ought to be lifted. Those restrictions threaten our ability to continue to form and strengthen friendships with fellow alumni and students in the most wonderful of informal environments.

While I appreciate Dean Trachtenberg’s efforts to ensure the safety of Yale students regarding drinking, I believe they have at times exceeded the administration’s proper role as manager of an academic institution. When I was a student, Yale treated me as an adult. It had an open and non-punitive policy that encouraged proper medical care of its members during the inevitable incidents of alcohol intoxication among its young students. I personally benefited from that policy one drunken night, as a 19-year-old sophomore, when I was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for several hours of observation. My informal meeting with Dean Flick later that week in his Silliman office, as well as the brush with my own vulnerability, remain an invaluable learning experience 12 years later.

I fear that today’s students are being taught to live by external rules, rather than developing their own judgment as I did. And I fear that a Yale student who becomes severely intoxicated today will be less likely to obtain medical care, instead remaining in private danger in a dorm room, as an indirect result of current policies.

Yale did not act as a police entity, nor as a parent figure while I was a student, and the result was an optimal growing experience. My fellow Yalies and I drank beer at Naples if we were so inclined. We went to a few fraternity parties. Some of us got drunk from time to time. We also participated passionately in politics, community service, science, arts and academics. And, through our freedom, we learned to be responsible, independent-minded members of our various communities. I want today’s Yale students to enjoy the same freedom and opportunities that made Yale’s alumni what we are today.

George Stapleton ’96

Nov. 3, 2005

Comments